Thoughts on privacy: Duckham and Kulik (2006)

I feel like the issue of privacy has come up in most classes this semester. It is such an important issue that is on most of our minds, most of the time as GIScientists. I find it interesting that the article by Duckham and Kulik was written in 2006, a couple years before everyone and (and their young children) had smartphones. In fact, this article is even more relevant today than it was then, and the issue is on our collective minds. An interesting note on the issue of privacy is the fact that both authors are from Melbourne-based universities, where CCTV is omnipresent. This is also especially relevant given the case currently being heard at the United States Supreme Court (Carpenter v. United States), which is based around the fact that police do not need a warrant to access locational information from cell phone-service providers, and centres on the bigger issue of people not being aware that they are being tracked by their cell phones at all times. Indeed, this issue is increasingly coming to the forefront of social discussions.

What I found most compelling is the discussion of the 5 criteria for regulation, and how they might be enforced or not today. The five criteria are 1) notice and transparency; 2) consent and use limitation; 3) access and participation; 4) integrity and security; 5) enforcement and accountability. These five points could be the basis for Matt’s entire discussion on Monday, so I’ll focus on just one: consent and use limitation. Certainly, we sign contracts with our cell phone providers, and accept the terms and conditions offered to us by Apple or Samsung (or whatever smart phone we have), and give away our right to privacy (which is a basic human right?!). That being said, we don’t really have a choice. If we want to participate in today’s economy/society, it is difficult to do so without a smart phone. For example, the ‘gig economy’ (as Lesley discussed in his presentation) often requires access to a mobile app, be it something like Foodora, Uber, TaskRabbit/Airstasker, even trading groups like BUNZ have location based apps. Do we really have a choice, or is giving away our right to privacy a necessary in our present society? I struggle with this a lot, because on the one hand, I value my privacy and believe we all have a right to privacy, but on the other hand, I am not a luddite and want to be able to have a smart phone. There is so much to discuss, I look forward to Matt’s presentation to learn more about the topic and how it relates to GIScience.

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