Ethical grounding and changing relationship to our data in our surveillance driven society

December 9, 2006 by stanza Leave a reply »

The ethical implications of using personalized data and CCTV recordings are embedded within the UK Data Protection Act.

The lawyers at the Watershed media Centre looked into this on my behalf. They concluded that provided the images were abstracted then this also met the guidelines of the Data Protection Act.

In general I aim for transparency, and gain consent if I use personal data. I also open the data via shared ownership which is placed in public domain. In my work collected data is subject to abstraction through my working process; once the personal identifiers have been removed from the data, then the resulting anonymized dataset is no longer subject to the Data Protection Act.

The key rules underlying the Act are:

  • Transparency – ensuring individuals have a very clear and unambiguous understanding of the purpose(s) for collecting the data and how it will be used;
  • Consent – at the time that the data is collected, individuals must give their consent to their data being collected, and also at this time, have the opportunity to opt out of any subsequent uses of the data.

Key to the rules of the Data Protection Act is what we describe as personal data. Within “The Emergent City”, I will initially focus on the data sets of noise, pollution, light, and temperature. In the collection of this type of data there is no conflict with data protection of privacy laws.

In the case of CCTV and more specific data for personal use, signs are usually put up in the public domain. Where I put my owns networks I will place signs. Consent has been sought in previous projects that make work which doesn’t have anonymity.

Issues of data protection have a great deal currency due to emerging technologies that are being embedded into the fabric of our everyday lives.

The whole emphasis of my work is in data relating to urban spaces to make informed, interpretive media artworks. However the use of the data that can be utilized from these tracking and surveillance technologies will also be important and have influence on my artistic working practice.

I am continuing to explore these issues, especially as data protection expands into technologies such as; smartcards for national identification (ID) schemes; biometric data, including proposed biometric passports; microchip implants and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

In summary the ethical grounding and changing relationship to our data in our surveillance driven society bring up a whole paradigm of debate that I am keen to engage in. This debate is very complex and also very current, and I aim to follow it and engage within it closely.


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