Privacy Implications of Surveillance Systems

Jacob Thommesen, Henning Boje Andersen

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    This paper presents a model for assessing the privacy „cost‟ of a surveillance system. Surveillance systems collect and provide personal information or observations of people by means of surveillance technologies such as databases, video or location tracking. Such systems can be designed for various purposes, even as a service for those being observed, but in any case they will to some degree invade their privacy. The model provided here can indicate how invasive any particular system may be – and be used to compare the invasiveness of different systems. Applying a functional approach, the model is established by first considering the social function of privacy in everyday life, which in turn lets us determine which different domains will be considered as private, and finally identify the different types of privacy invasion. This underlying model (function – domain – invasion) then serves to explain the ways in which a technology-based surveillance system can affect the privacy of the observed. The model thus identifies a set of general characteristics (dimensions) of surveillance system that will determine the degree of invasiveness. The applicability of the model is demonstrated by analyzing a location-based system for airport passengers developed for a Copenhagen Airport, and the dimensions are used to explain user reactions to different services offered by the system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPrivacy Implications of Surveillance Systems
    Publication date2009
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventMobile communication and social policy - Center for Mobile Communication Studies, Rutgers University
    Duration: 1 Jan 2009 → …


    ConferenceMobile communication and social policy
    CityCenter for Mobile Communication Studies, Rutgers University
    Period01/01/2009 → …


    • Location-Based Systems
    • RFID
    • Privacy
    • Surveillance

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