It seems that another train has left the station. Location aware computing is available, and its ubiquitous integration with our cell phones, laptops, and person is only a matter of time. In January, Mathew Honan described (Wired) his experiments with a location aware lifestyle. Yet, even as recently as 2007, locational privacy was on the table in discussions of Google Earth (Randall Stross, in Planet Google, pp. 142-151). (Google Privacy page)
Clearly times are changing. I wish I'd kept the peer reviews from 1989 calling me a fascist given that my dissertation was on the effects of computer performance monitoring. Never mind that in the later field research the chip inspectors found electronic monitoring less invasive than physical (watch over your shoulder) monitoring. My argument has always been that monitoring is a tool and that the outcomes are a combination of the tool's capabilities with the people and organizational practice. These issues identify that a key skill we need in our roles of accidental systems designers is the ability to understand and manage privacy and information access. Motahari, Manikopoulos, Hiltz, & Jones (2007) describe these Seven Privacy Worries in Ubiquitous Social Computing in their paper of the same name (pdf):
- Inappropriate use by Administrators: e.g. The system admin sells personal data without permission.
- Legal Obligations: The system admin is forced by an organization such as the police to reveal personal data.
- Inadequate Security.
- Designed Invasion (Poor Features): e.g. a cell phone application that reveals location to friends, but does this without informing the user or providing control of this feature.
- Social Inference through lack of Entropy: See CampusWiki example...
- Social Inference through Persistent User Observation: e.g. Bob is so often in Alice's office. Their relationship must be romance.
- Social Leveraging of Privileged Data: e.g. David can't access my location, but Jane can. David asks Jane my location.
The Economist published Every Move You Make in 2008 noting the following about Waber and Pentland's study of locational monitoring (via identity badges that could track location and the timbre and inflection the wearer's voice!) in a US high-tech firm and a German bank:
An interesting experiment, then. But how widely this approach can work in practice is unclear. Many people may object to having their behaviour scrutinised so closely and Mr Waber and Dr Pentland are, indeed, sensitive to privacy. They believe that the risk of rejection can be minimised by using the badges only for short periods of time, so that they do not become part of a routine monitoring system. It will also help, they believe, if everyone is treated equally, so that the boss’s actions, foibles and shortcomings are as transparent as those of his minions. Now that really would be a revolution in management science.
Contrast the above with the sentiments expressed by this Carnegie Mellon graduate student (using Lococcino, 2:43min video) and the popularity of iStanford. I continue, without success, to search for serious sociological research on our changing views regarding locational and other monitoring. Pointers appreciated.