I went back to browse through the Conference agenda to see whether there was much or any concern for the implications of ubiquitous computing. As an owner of an Airport-configured iBook I am a great enthusiast, at least when I can post from my favorite coffee houses, for ubiquitous computing. I also like my privacy. I wish that UbiComp 2003 shared those privacy concerns a bit more aggressively.
The good news is that there is a conference session on "Social Aspects and Privacy." The bad news appears (I'd be overjoyed if someone from the Conference can reassure me that I have missed something) when you start to read the papers which will be presented. Such as:
IntelliBadgeTM: Towards Providing Location-Aware Value-Added Services at Academic Conferences
This paper contains details on a project aimed to provide location-aware value-added services to the participants of an academic conference. The major characteristic of this project is the fusion of RFID technology, database management, data mining, real-time information visualization, and interactive web application technologies into an operational integrated system deployed at a major public conference. The developed system tracks conference attendees, analyzes the tracking data in real-time and provides various services to the attendees, such as a real-time snapshot of the conference events attendance, the ability to locate friends in the convention center, and the ability to search for events of interest. The results of this experiment were revealing in terms of both the potential of the developed technology and the conference dynamics.(emphases added -- DS)
Chilling in some ways. But Hey! I can see the point. I'd also like to lounge a cafe and be discretely "pinged" (though her Palm) by that intriguing woman seated across the room. But I'm a bit surprised that the "Gee Whiz" approach to Ubiquitous Computing seems to be the overwhelming style at UbiComp 2003.
Of course I can readily understand it --- that iBook goes with me everywhere --- and yes I understand that ubiquitous computing goes well beyond carrying a laptop around and that's why I am posting on this again. The appeal of these techologies as toys is enormous. Here, for instance, is one key session:
Mobile Play: Blogging, Tagging, and Messaging
Ubiquitous computing, by its very definition, aspires to weave computing technologies across the fabric of our everyday lives. Many of the successes and failures encountered during the pursuit of ubiquitous computing will be dictated by the manifest integration of play. It is play that helps us cope with the past, understand the present, and prepare for the future. This panel of experts is passionately interested in engaging in a critical dialogue around the applicability, adoption, and consequences of such elements of play in ubiquitous computing research. As motivation, several tremendously popular ubiquitous computing themes with playful elements will be examined: blogging, tagging, and message play.
Compu Ludens indeed.
But let's also remember that Hobbes wasn't all wrong and that someone is going to use these technologies for their own nasty and brutish ends. So maybe a bit more thinking of the downside might be useful. No?
Not to exagerate, there is awareness of the issue but rather than being pervasive, it seems to be pushed to the margins and in fact the workshop which seems to focus on the issue is before the Conference formally starts:
Workshop on Security in Ubiquitous Computing
Abstract Anonymity is a protection goal that helps to protect the privacy of users by ensuring that their identity remains unknown. As privacy is a grave concern in pervasive computing, the need for suitable anonymity mechanisms is apparent. This contribution uses the Freiburg privacy diamond to analyze the possibilities for anonymity mechanisms in pervasive and highlights the problems that arise out of the one user many devices model.
As well, there is some very intelligent thinking at UbiComp's Discussion Space. But again, the privacy concern is pushed to the margins. The central focus of the Conference is "What great toys!" Or at least that is what comes through to this casual reader.
I'd just prefer it if the entire conference was built around these privacy problems rather than full-steaming ahead and somehow assuming that they will be taken care of. But that's just me; I am a conservative.