WP 2 – Case studies – privacy, data protection and ethical issues in emerging technologies

Objectives

  1. To carry out five case studies involving different emerging technologies expected to have significant impact on privacy in order to
⁃ analyse the ethical, privacy and data protection issues raised by the emerging fields of science and technology. - identify uncertainties in the legal environment as a result of new and emerging technologies, - assess how privacy and data protection are weighed against other ethical values related to security and practical convenience.
  1. To assess whether and how the Charter of Fundamental Rights can serve as a basis for legislative action that would help to resolve the identified uncertainties.
  2. To explicate and make some recommendations with regard to ethical approaches at the R&D and application phases of new technologies.
  3. Invite and gather comments from the external experts on the case studies.
  4. Convene a workshop for the experts to discuss the issues raised by the scenarios and their analytical framework.

This WP has the following tasks:

Task 2.1: Case studies

The partners will undertake several case studies in which we analyse emerging and foreseen ethical, privacy and data protection issues. The partners will agree an analytical framework before undertaking the case studies. This framework will be based on the research undertaken in WP1 on the legal, socio-economic and ethical approaches to privacy and data protection.

Task 2.1.1: ICT case study “Radio Frequency Identification”

RFID technology presents an unprecedented example of EU technology assessment. From the start, the European Commission has organised large consultations, has done extensive legal analysis and has brought together stakeholders. This case study will analyse: (1) the current status-quo in RFID and the expected progress in the mid-term; (2) the set of academic, and industrial actors that are driving the development, and their intentions; (3) possible users or beneficiaries of RFID; (4) possibilities for privacy-infringing uses and practices; (5) the extent to which existing ethical principles (e.g., informed consent) and legal regulations are valid and applicable for RFID technologies; (6) possible pathways for future oriented new ethical rules and regulations to ensure the right to privacy. Attention will be paid to recent EU policy-making. Is this a solid model for further development of assessment frameworks? This will be compared with policy-making regarding RFID in Member States and other third countries such as the US.

Task 2.1.2: Security case study “New surveillance technologies"

The purpose of whole body scanning (WBS) technology is to provide an efficient and effective means to screen persons for potentially dangerous items concealed under clothing, not visible to the casual observer, without requiring a physical pat-down search. Employing either millimetre wave or backscatter technology allow screeners to detect weapons, explosives and other threatening items hidden beneath clothing without the need for pat-down or strip-searches. From an ethical point of view, there is a point that can be made over the compromise of respect for intimacy. Also to be examined is the use of powerful microphones that can pick up random conversations in the street or anywhere for that matter. Some law enforcement authorities have proposed installing such microphones in tandem with the surveillance cameras that already exist in millions. Still others have proposed use of loudspeakers along with surveillance cameras and microphones so that, for example, law enforcement authorities can bark commands (“Stop that, right now!”) to people committing offences. This case study will analyse: (1) the current status-quo of such technologies; (2) the set of academic, industrial and state actors that are driving their development, and their intentions; (3) possible users or beneficiaries; (4) possibilities for privacy-infringing uses and practices; (5) the extent to which existing ethical principles and legal regulations are valid and applicable for new surveillance technologies; (6) possible pathways for future oriented new ethical rules and regulations to ensure the right to privacy. The case study will discuss amongst others the body scanner case pending before the European Parliament.

Task 2.1.3: Biometrics case study

There are basically three modes in which biometric recognition technology can be used: identification (when a person is recognised by comparing his biometrics with a database of known biometrics in order to find one known biometrics which matches with his biometrics, allowing then his positive identification); authentication (when a person is recognised by comparing his biometrics with biometrics of an identity that he claims to be, the latter biometrics can be included either in an identity document brought by the claimant or in a data base owned by the identifying authority); screening (when a person presents his biometrics in order to demonstrate that his identity is not included among the identities of a list of known biometrics, say, when a person aims to demonstrate that he is not on a watch list, that is “negative identification”). All three biometric modes – but authentication – necessarily involve the establishment of biometric databases. Biometric databases can be consequently first classified according to their application, whether for identification, or authentication or screening. Each one of these applications implies different privacy problems. Further biometric databases imply different privacy problems also according to their dimension. For instance, huge databases for large-scale applications (e.g., biometric passports) present very diverse privacy problems in comparison to small databases for local applications (e.g., access to a college library). Finally biometric databases present different privacy implications according to their contexts, for instance, databases for physical access (e.g., to a restricted security area), or to logical access (e.g., electronic health records), or to give access to any privilege (e.g., list of people on welfare). We intend to discuss these different perspectives by using examples taken from EU Member State practices. To what extent are large biometric database compatible with democratic rules? Would it be ever acceptable to share or even fuse diverse biometric database? How could the proportionality principle be adopted in this field?

Task 2.1.4: Biomedical case study “Total DNA sequencing”

Currently there is a very dynamic development of technologies for DNA sequencing, which promise the possibility of total sequencing of a living organism's genome for very low cost (under 1 000 US$ for the human genome) in much shorter time than today. These technologies are at the edge of commercial breakthrough and will fuel numerous new fields of application in life science research and medical diagnostics but also in forensics, security engineering, quality control etc. in the next decade. Today there are already agreed (or at least discussed) ethical principles for the use of DNA analysis and genetic testing, respectively for (1) certain hereditary diseases, (2) paternity testing and (3) forensic analyses (in 2) and 3) only structural characteristics of the genome are of interest and not its "content" or "meaning"). They may, however, be challenged by the new sequencing technologies which offer the promise to reveal genetic information of an individual and his or her relatives in hitherto unknown dimensions. This case study will analyse: (1) the current status-quo in human DNA sequencing and the expected progress in the mid-term; (2) the set of academic, industrial and clinical actors that are driving the development, and their intentions; (3) possible users or beneficiaries of DNA sequencing; (4) possibilities for privacy-infringing uses and practices; (5) the extent to which existing ethical principles for DNA analyses and diagnostic and predictive genetic testing (e.g. the right of nescience, informed consent, etc,) and legal regulations are valid and applicable for new DNA sequencing technologies; (6) possible pathways for future oriented new ethical rules and regulations to ensure the right to privacy.

Task 2.1.5: Nanotechnology case study: “Technologies for human enhancement”

Recently in the US and Europe, technologies for human enhancement have attracted public and scientific debate. While enhancement of human abilities has always been a goal for technology development, new technologies now directly intervene in human sensory and cognitive apparatus. Scientific input from neuroscience, nanotechnology (e.g. the development of devices and materials) as well computer science are fuelling the development of these emerging technologies. A major application of these technologies is neural implants and other brain-machine interface devices. Some of them are dedicated to medical purposes, e.g., to reconstruct visual and auditive sensory abilities (retina and cochlea implants). Other implants have direct consequences for language production and self control (deep brain stimulation for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease). Enhancement technologies can also be non-invasive like pharmaceuticals aiming at improving cognitive abilities but also regulating emotions. In some countries, the use of these substances has already produced concern about societal consequences. Part of this debate is also the increasing potential of neuroscience in analysing brain activity patterns by which thoughts and brain states can be identified. In the future, this can, for example, enhance possibilities to detect liars. These research results have triggered debate about the increasing control potential of these technologies, but also about the nature of the intervention in the “human condition” that is supposed to be altered. The case study will analyse: (1) The state of the art in cognitive and medical enhancement technologies, (2) the main arguments and legitimisation efforts of actors involved for or against human enhancement, (3) identification of different human – machine interaction patterns derived from the use of these technologies, (4) possibilities for enhancing control by using cognitive enhancement technologies and (5) societal consequences of use of enhancement technologies (e.g., equal opportunities).

Task 2.2: Legal uncertainties


VUB will identify uncertainties in the legal environment relating to each of the case studies. VUB will also assess whether and how the Charter of Fundamental Rights can serve as a basis for legislative action that would help to resolve the identified uncertainties

Task 2.3: Synthesis of findings from the case studies

The partners will (1) discuss how our understanding of privacy and data protection may change in the light of the case study technologies, (2) assess how privacy and data protection are weighed against other ethical values related to security and practical convenience and (3) agree and formulate some recommendations with regard to ethical approaches at the R&D and application phases of new technologies. The partners will prepare a paper covering all three of these points for circulation to the group of experts. With regard to point (2), the partners will see whether the findings of the case studies affect their views and the findings of Task 2 of WP1, which among other things also examines the trade-offs between privacy and other social values. We will also show how the convergence of different technologies adds a new layer of complexity and uncertainty in perceiving privacy and ethical issues. We will distil and describe aspects of new and emerging technologies that affect privacy (e.g., profiling, autonomous decisions, miniaturisation, invisibility, uncontrollability, etc), data protection and ethics. Our proposal will give some examples of ethical ambiguities or dilemmas relating to new and emerging technologies in different domains.

Task 2.4: Workshop

The partners will circulate the case studies and the discussion paper to the panel of experts for review and comment. The partners will then convene a workshop of the experts so that all experts and partners have the opportunity to exchange views about the case studies and recommendations and to discuss any outstanding points from the case studies and their significance in terms of the policy-making process with regard to privacy, data protection and ethical issues arising from new technologies.

The workshop and its outcome will conclude the second phase of the PRESCIENT project.

News

Conference Book of abstracts available
BECOME INVOLVED: The program of the PRESCIENT conference is now available!
SAVE THE DATE: The PRESCIENT project will hold an international conference on "Privacy and Emerging Sciences and Technologies" on 27 & 28 November 2012 at Fraunhofer Forum in Berlin
30-11-2011: Book Launch: Towards Responsible Research and Innovation in the ICT and Security Technologies Fields.
Download Report
01-06-2011: Workshop on "Privacy issues arising from next generation whole genome sequencing" (01 June 2011) in Brussels
In co-operation with the STOA Project "Making Perfect Life"
 
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