Archive for the ‘Data handing’ Category

Sousveillance as citizen “undersight” raises tough questions

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Worth reading: h+ Magazine is featuring a piece by well-known wearable computing pioneer Steve Mann on the concept of sousveillance. It begins:

When Canadian police tasered Robert Dziekanski –- a man who had arrived in Vancouver International airport in October 2007 from Poland – it was not the surveillance cameras that helped bring the incident to light. It was witness Paul Pritchard who captured the killing on his camera phone. Dziekanski was tasered at least twice and then beaten by police.

This is but one example of citizens capturing their ordinary day-to-day life activities and uncovering crimes that have previously escaped capture by surveillance that looks only “from above.”


Sousveillance is a form of “reflectionism,” a term that describes the use of technology to mirror and confront bureaucratic organizations.

Sounds good. Now we need to look at the hard questions: where does one person’s ‘right to sense’ interfere with another’s right to privacy, where do we draw that line, and how will it be enforced? Tough questions, but we need to take them on now. If you find examples of work on this, please let us know here at —Chris Peterson

The Economist on mobile phone sensing pluses & minuses

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Alexandra Carmichael, co-founder of the open source health research site CureTogether, brings our attention to a piece in The Economist summarizing *some* of the current work on sensing using mobile phones. It concludes:

The technology is probably the easy part, however. For global networks of mobile sensors to provide useful insights, technology firms, governments, aid organisations and individuals will have to find ways to address concerns over privacy, accuracy, ownership and sovereignty. Only if they do so will it be possible to tap the gold mine of information inside the world’s billions of mobile phones.

This may be true, but these projects seem to be moving ahead in any case… —Chris Peterson

Scenarios of pervasive sensing & intelligent environments

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Prof. Vic Callaghan of University of Essex (UK) brings to our attention a paper addressing issues of privacy and intelligent environments, which includes a number of scenarios that help make vivid what the future is bringing. His email is worth a read:

I just watched the video of your talk “Open Source Physical Security: Can we have both privacy and safety?“.

I think you raise a number of very important points about the potential for misuse of technology. I research in pervasive computing (Intelligent Environments, Pervasive Sensing, Digital Homes, Smart Homes etc) having previously been heavily involved in robotics. In this work I became aware of how technology could be misused, in a similar way to the nanotechnology you describe. We became so concerned that we gave a talk to the UN (as we felt it needed legislation or guidance at a very high level). More recently we wrote this up as an academic paper which suffered some opposition and modification before we were able to find and outlet willing to publish it (its a rather unpopular message). We are mainstream researchers in intelligent environments, that spent most of our life promoting this technology so it was, perhaps, a little unusual that we wrote an article that might be counter to its unfettered deployment. (more…)

Smartphone sensing in privacy-aware environments

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Steve Omohundro brings to our attention a talk at PARC on a sensing system that pays some attention to “privacy-by-design”, apparently:

This talk describes how the mobile internet is changing the face of traffic monitoring at a rapid pace. In the last five years, cellular phone technology has bypassed several attempts to construct dedicated infrastructure systems to monitor traffic. Today, GPS equipped smartphones are progressively morphing into an ubiquitous traffic monitoring system, with the potential to provide information almost everywhere in the transportation network. Traffic information systems of this type are one of the first instantiations of participatory sensing for large scale cyberphysical infrastructure systems.


Role of privacy in protecting political freedoms

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Josh Hall brings to our attention an article in Technology Review by Simson Garfinkel. While the article focuses on online privacy, below are some excerpts that may be useful for our purposes here:

Privacy gives us the right to meet and speak confidentially with others—a right that’s crucial for democracy, which requires places for political ideas to grow and mature. …

Collectively, we made things worse by not building strong privacy and security guarantees into our information systems, our businesses, and our society…

Another law, the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, makes it illegal for Netflix to disclose the movies you rent…

A Nixon administration advisory committee then developed the Code of Fair Information Practice, a guiding set of principles that underlies the majority of U.S. privacy laws passed since.

This code is surprisingly straightforward. There should be no secret data banks; individuals must be able to view their records; there must be a way to correct errors; organizations maintaining data banks must make sure they’re reliable and protect them from unauthorized access; and information collected for one purpose must not be used for other purposes…

Congress, however, opposed TIA on the grounds that it treated everyone in the country as a suspect, and because it feared that a massive data surveillance system might be used for purposes other than catching terrorists. This prospect was not so hypothetical: in 1972 Richard Nixon had ordered the IRS to investigate his political opponents, including major contributors to George McGovern’s presidential campaign…

For more than 100 years, American jurisprudence has recognized privacy as a requirement for democracy, social relations, and human dignity. For nearly 50, we’ve understood that protecting privacy takes more than just controlling intrusions into your home; it also requires being able to control information about you that’s available to businesses, government, and society at large. Even though Americans were told after 9/11 that we needed to choose between security and privacy, it’s increasingly clear that without one we will never have the other.

Simson’s proposal for a government-issued online identity will be very controversial—see Bruce Schneier for the opposite view—but his discussion of the role of privacy in protecting freedom is useful separately from that.

I increasingly feel we need a different term than “privacy” for what we are trying to protect. Privacy has negative connotations. Any ideas? —Chris Peterson

Sensors get more intimate

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The LA Times reports on work by the USC School of Medicine and School of Engineering:

The team has devised a wireless body area network that includes an accelerometer, a heart rate monitor, a GPS device and a sensor that measures the electrical conductivity of skin. All the data is relayed to a Nokia phone, which then transmits it to a secure server.
The device will become so attuned to its wearer that the researchers have dubbed this the KNOWME Networks study, said Donna Spruijt-Metz of the Keck School of Medicine, who described the project last week at the Childhood Obesity Conference in Los Angeles.

“We’ll train the sensors to guess pretty well what you’re doing,” she said.

I bet she’s right! Speaking as one who is somewhat addicted to wearing a pedometer, I predict that this kind of thing will catch on. So it would be a good idea for us to make clear that we’d like to know what the systems we’re wearing are sensing, and where that data is going… —Chris Peterson

‘Towards privacy-sensitive participatory sensing’

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

From the Fifth IEEE International Workshop on Sensor Networks and Systems for Pervasive Computing, three authors from Australia bring us Towards Privacy-Sensitive Participatory Sensing:

The ubiquity of mobile devices has brought forth the concept of participatory sensing, whereby ordinary citizens can now contribute and share information from the urban environment. However, such applications introduce a key research challenge: preserving the location privacy of the individuals contributing data. In this paper, we propose the use of microaggregation, a concept used for protecting privacy in databases, as a solution to this problem.

More of this kind of creativity, please. —Chris Peterson

Korea starting ‘Ubiquitous Sensor Network’

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Kim Tong-hyung of The Korea Times brings news of a new sensor project in that country:

The idea is to combine the sensors and closed-circuit camera (CCTV) information under a broadband convergence network (BcN), or a planned massive IP providing connection speeds between 50 to 100 megabytes per second (mbps), the Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) and other next-generation Internet platforms.

The gathered information would be accessible anytime and anywhere by mobile, through the country’s advanced second and third generation (3G) wireless networks and WiBro, the local variant of mobile WiMAX…

Seoul will look to explore the possibility of using IP-USN for providing real-time traffic information, and monitoring road conditions and bus movements, while also evaluating air pollution levels. The information will be managed through the WiBro network.

Chuncheon is planning to use IP-USN to construct a “smart well-being leisure city,” using sensors to provide pulse monitoring and other health information to joggers through mobile devices, and the network for monitoring air pollution.

That does indeed sound pretty thorough. Maybe we could get this project to collaborate with us here on openness and data-handling issues? —Chris Peterson

ISO Sensor Network group drafts & Sensorpedia

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Sent by Kevin Keck, longtime Foresight member:

I just happened to have been reminded this week that ISO/IEC JTC1 currently has an active Study Group on Sensor Networks (SGSN). The comment period on the attached documents has closed, but they’ll be having their fourth meeting in Oslo, Norway, 29 June – 3 July 2009, and there’s mention in the second of an email discussion group that was to be resumed in March. These documents were distributed widely for comment, so you should be able to redistribute them further without any problem.

Also, have you heard of Sensorpedia?

Anyone wishing to see the documents, use the Contact form on this site to request them. And we had not seen Sensorpedia, a project of Oak Ridge National Lab, but it’s on the blog roll now. Thanks, Kevin! —Chris Peterson