The increasing reach of information technology into all areas of life, from social networking websites to data sharing in public services, has thrown up a number of questions about privacy. Information about our medical records, financial circumstances and shopping habits is increasingly likely to be stored in electronic media that are out of our control.
Some critics worry more about Tesco's data-gathering than any "surveillance state." The controversy about Google Maps' Street View function, which captured thousands of unwitting people walking or standing on the streets, is a reminder that new technology constantly raises new questions about our privacy.
So how worried should we be? Does the convenience of easily accessed information outweigh the danger of abuse? How are our conceptions of privacy changing? And following the success of the Pirate Party in Sweden, can we expect privacy to move up the political agenda in the UK, too?
These concerns focus on technological development, but arguably there has been a broader cultural transformation, whereby we are loosening up about what we consider "private." From school to the workplace, we are constantly encouraged to discuss our feelings, while public figures in politics as well as showbiz seem ever-anxious not only to be "transparent" about their work, but to reveal intimate details of their private lives.
Some argue we are seeing a fundamental shift in attitudes to privacy, with a whole new generation growing up at ease with sharing pictures and information about themselves online with loosely-defined "friends." Meanwhile, we are increasingly suspicious of goings-on "behind closed doors," and the demand for privacy often seems a cranky hang-up of those with something to hide.
In this context, what does it mean to insist on a right to privacy? Should we look to privacy laws to protect those who are less keen on sharing all? Where is the line between public and private today? Do we need to redraw this line and why is this so politically important?
Peter Barron is Google's Director of Communications and Public Affairs for North and Central Europe.
He was previously editor of BBC2's "Newsnight" from 2004-2008, and he has worked in TV news and current affairs for nearly twenty years.
He started as a BBC news trainee and has worked at a senior level on "Newsnight," "Channel 4 News" and "Tonight with Trevor McDonald." He devised and edited the BBC drama documentary series "If...".
In 2007 he was advisory chair of the Edinburgh International TV Festival.
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to Wired, Popular Science, Make, the New York Times, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. A visiting senior lecturer at the Open University, he was formerly Director of European Affairs for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. In 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.
His novels are published by HarperCollins UK and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards. His latest novel is Makers, and his last New York Times Bestseller Little Brother was published in May 2008. His latest short story collection is Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present. In 2008, Tachyon Books published a collection of his essays, called Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future (with an introduction by John Perry Barlow) and IDW published a collection of comic books inspired by his short fiction called Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now.
Claire Fox is the director of the Institute of Ideas (IoI), which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint.
Fox initiated the IoI while co-publisher of the current affairs journal LM magazine (formerly Living Marxism). The IoI has since worked with a variety of prestigious institutions in Britain and abroad.
Fox is a panelist on BBC Radio 4's "The Moral Maze" and is regularly invited to comment on developments in culture, education and the media on TV and radio. Fox writes regularly for national newspapers and a range of specialist journals. Fox has a monthly column in the Municipal Journal.
Dr. Norman Lewis is the Chief Strategy Officer, Wireless Grids Corporation, USA where he is responsible for business strategy and building key-industry partnerships to bring this technology to market.
Prior to joining WGC, he was the Director of Technology Research for Orange UK, formerly the Home Division of France Telecom, where he focused on the integrated Telco approach to the emerging Web2.0 ecosphere. His research team were subsequently recognised as internet thought-leaders across the world.
Until recently he was an Executive Board member of the MIT Communications Futures Programme - a global research partnership between industry and six laboratories at MIT, Cambridge Mass. He has acted as a consultant to the World Intellectual Property Organisation on issues related to the Digital Divide. He is currently the Chairman of the International Telecommunications Union's TELECOM Forum Programme Committee.
His current focus remains on the subject of digital children and their encounter with innovation in a risk-averse culture. Allied to this he is researching new disruptive business models around Next Generation voice and messaging services.
Anna Minton is a writer and journalist. She has worked as a foreign correspondent, business reporter and social affairs writer and is the winner of five national journalism awards. After a decade in journalism she began to focus on longer projects for think tanks and policy organizations. She is the author of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Viewpoint on fear and distrust and a member of the writers' panel for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. She appears regularly on television and radio and is a contributor to The Guardian.
The idea for "Ground Control" emerged from a series of three agenda setting reports. The first focused on gated communities and ghettos in the US, questioning to what extent these trends are emerging in the UK. The second, "Northern Soul," looked at polarization and culture in one British city, Newcastle, and the third, "What kind of World Are We Building?" investigated the growing privatization of public space.
Publicly accessible computer network connecting many smaller networks from around the world. It grew out of a U.S. Defense Department program called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), established in 1969 with connections between computers at the University of California at Los Angeles, Stanford Research Institute, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. ARPANET's purpose was to conduct research into computer networking in order to provide a secure and survivable communications system in case of war. As the network quickly expanded, academics and researchers in other fields began to use it as well. In 1971 the first program for sending e-mail over a distributed network was developed; by 1973, the year international connections to ARPANET were made (from Britain and Norway), e-mail represented most of the traffic on ARPANET. The 1970s also saw the development of mailing lists, newsgroups and bulletin-board systems, and the TCP/IP communications protocols, which were adopted as standard protocols for ARPANET in 198283, leading to the widespread use of the term Internet. In 1984 the domain name addressing system was introduced. In 1986 the National Science Foundation established the NSFNET, a distributed network of networks capable of handling far greater traffic, and within a year more than 10,000 hosts were connected to the Internet. In 1988 real-time conversation over the network became possible with the development of Internet Relay Chat protocols (seechat). In 1990 ARPANET ceased to exist, leaving behind the NSFNET, and the first commercial dial-up access to the Internet became available. In 1991 the World Wide Web was released to the public (via FTP). The Mosaic browser was released in 1993, and its popularity led to the proliferation of World Wide Web sites and users. In 1995 the NSFNET reverted to the role of a research network, leaving Internet traffic to be routed through network providers rather than NSF supercomputers. That year the Web became the most popular part of the Internet, surpassing the FTP protocols in traffic volume. By 1997 there were more than 10 million hosts on the Internet and more than 1 million registered domain names. Internet access can now be gained via radio signals, cable-television lines, satellites, and fibre-optic connections, though most traffic still uses a part of the public telecommunications (telephone) network. The Internet is widely regarded as a development of vast significance that will affect nearly every aspect of human culture and commerce in ways still only dimly discernible.
The argument that they collect user data to provide more user targeted services is poor excuse.
I´ve worked in the market research business. We did market research the traditional way, this means by inviting and interviewing a voluntary target group.
After data-evaluation the sponsor almost always said:"we don´t have the time and budget to make this kind of changes to the product. We rather use marketing to "align" the consumers needs toward the product - it is more economic!".
It was interesting watching this very good debate on privacy and the public vs. private spaces and to have the camera roving around the audience, focusing on faces of folks not engaged in the Q&A. Another issue might be in camera-etiquette at public events... yes it's public, but what purpose does focusing on participants serve ... and who? The public, the conference, the camera person, the police, etc.?