Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Future of Privacy

I had the privilege to provide the keynote opening speech yesterday at the CCTV User Group Conference in Manchester, UK. I touched on the idea of future privacy, since this is often a concern for people who are involved in security roles, of which CCTV is one component. Google may have made more of a headline recently with their street-view photography exercise amongst those people who felt it intruded on their privacy, but the number and placement of CCTV cameras which have seen explosive growth in recent years has probably meant that people are tracked far more as they go about their lives. This is the early embryonic stage of the technology digital bubble where sensors and cameras of various types are deployed in huge numbers in the environment such that information can be constantly provided and exchanged about what people are doing and where.

In the future, privacy will be more about selecting and managing how much information you give about yourself and to whom. Choosing not to give away information may say more about you than doing so to some limited degree. Increasingly the digital bubble that surrounds people will allow this sharing and interaction to be done automatically on your behalf and according to the rules that you have set. Choosing to give out information may be incentivised and provide you with benefits of some sort, in an analogous way to how accepting advertising today can result in "free" access to media or information.

Cameras will continue to be deployed in ever-increasing numbers, and instead of being connected in closed private circuits, many will be Internet linked and available to large numbers of people. Software already allows auto-analysis of what such cameras see and this will improve immeasurably in performance and quality. Eventually, many of us will be able to record our whole lives as media streams and software then will allow us to find interesting excerpts at will, quickly and easily. Virtualisation will allow the replay to be carried out from any desired perspective. Memories will be more vivid and easier to share. Maybe I will get to speak at the "Life Recording User Group" conference!

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