New Age Privacy is a design fiction on future connected homes. By 2035, data has made it possible for us to proactively predict and prevent anything that might go wrong in our communities. We have perfect schools, efficient healthcare systems, equal food distribution. So, how about our private lives, and the data that represents us? What’s the value of a perfect society when our personal privacy is at stake?
2015 Autumn | UID | 9 weeks
The Data Passage
The privacy controller for home data makes sure that one’s home is a sealed data bubble: it doesn’t let any information leak without the inhabitants consciously making the decision to share or withhold the data, by tweaking their desired privacy settings. This future telecommunication device intercepts outgoing information; it aggregates all sensor data from the room where it is currently stored, and allows the owner to tune in to the recipient’s frequency who is requesting the data. Such recipient can be the municipality, the local hospital or school, etc.
Data Passage is not a consumer electronic product. Even by 2035, not all of us will consider data mining as something that deserves regular attention. Its creators envisioned it to be a hand-made, rare-to-find, one-of-a-kind tool for the ones who truly care about the journey of their data, and that causes that their data might be supporting.
My research insights were formulated into general design recommendations, which might be useful in any design space related to data privacy. These principles guided my decisions in detail interaction design, as well as in storytelling and scriptwriting.
Equal food supplies, well-oiled healthcare systems, better schools for our children — don’t we all wish we lived in a world like this? Our contribution to a predictive society is our data: how we behave, what we consume, how our bodies function. So, what data would you be willing to disclose about yourself for a greater social good?
In this project, storytelling was used as the main design tool to shape the interaction concept for future connected homes. The short fiction takes place in a society with proactive prediction and prevention of social issues through data mining. The public system is highly dependent on citizens' contribution with their private information, and tech companies' willingness to give up full control over the gathered data that they own. If we extrapolated today’s tendencies, we would assume users would unknowingly give up their privacy for convenience. However, I envision a new data business model, and a growing niche of savvy users – dataphiles – conscious of the journey of their data, will advocate for gaining control.
My aim was to gather insights and formulate design principles around privacy for the Internet of Things in a way that they could be applicable as general tools outside of this project, too. This was not a crucial step for a design fiction process about future homes, but given the high relevance and the sensitive nature of the topic, I found it important to thoroughly investigate it in depth.
To understand the viewpoint of people on privacy issues, I chose to conduct immersive qualitative user research. Their values and judgement inspired the design process on many levels; they helped shape the final design to be plausible, relevant, relatable, and polarising in a way that sparks debate in the audience.
The immersive research meant that interactive research probes were placed in a shared apartment for several days, after which I interviewed all participants about their experiences, and their standpoint on data privacy.