Privacy and Emerging Technologies

International Conference of the PRESCIENT Project – Call for abstracts

27 – 28 November 2012
Fraunhofer Forum Berlin, Germany
Deadline for abstracts is 10 October 2012

A universal feature of modern public life is the invasion of privacy that occurs every day and in a variety of forms. Invasive surveillance activities are carried out in the name of preventing terrorism and stopping fraud. Crime control has become synonymous with surveillance technologies, information technologies and databases. The boundaries of public and private life have become blurred, and privacy has become compromised in the name of protecting the public. At the same time, users of social networks and Web 2.0 services voluntarily give away their information – supposedly to other users, but whether they know it or not, they are also giving it to companies and whoever is interested in the data freely available on the Web. Google and Facebook’s power are being discussed more and more in the media, opening up a discourse about companies and citizens’ handling of personal information.

Despite numerous legislative frameworks designed to protect privacy, rapid technological advances in various technological fields (the Internet, surveillance, biometrics, genomics, neurotechnology) have meant that the law often falls behind technological developments. Legislation is frequently designed as principles, rather than to fit specific technologies. Furthermore, the extent to which legislation is enforced or is enforceable varies.

The idea of a right to privacy has been a long-debated issue. For some, privacy protection can only occur through the development of transparent standards; for others, privacy is already an outdated concept. Attempts to ensure privacy protection have focused on “data” and legal frameworks. More recently, privacy-enhancing technologies have become an important technological advance, although they have not been widely adopted by the online community. It is widely acknowledged that existing legal frameworks fall short in terms of impacting on organisational practices. The question then arises: how can privacy be protected in the future and how can the protection keep up with the dynamic technological developments?

In recent years, we have seen attempts to design a process that will allow the assessment and management of possible ethical and privacy risks. The core elements in this process are “privacy and ethical impact assessments” as a tool to systematically identify the risks of scientific developments and emerging technologies in their early stages. The other element is “privacy by design”, so far practically still an under defined concept to take the non-technical requirements for privacy into account already at the beginning of a development cycle. This has to be embedded in a future methodology for risk management.

The EC-funded PRESCIENT project is hosting an international conference in Berlin to provide a forum for the discussion of new approaches to assess the ethical and privacy impacts of emerging technologies. New approach need to be more clearly specified and informed by current research on privacy, data protection, innovation and foresight studies.

Topics of interest include the following:

Privacy, ethical and surveillance impact assessments
Innovation (in the context of emerging technologies) and trade-offs against social equity
Ethical issues raised by emerging technologies
Privacy by design
Foresight re emerging technologies and how foresight can help reduce unintended consequences
Designing scenarios for the analysis of emerging technologies
The (in)adequacies of existing legal frameworks in addressing the social impacts of emerging technologies
Regulatory capture
The power of large corporations to avoid or evade regulatory controls re emerging technologies
Key challenges facing regulators in the face of emerging technologies

For more information see: PRESCIENT Project – Call for abstracts

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