The Everyday Data Collectors: Privacy, Surveillance and Cloud-Based Smartphone Applications

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Daniel KERPEN, Institute of Sociology at RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Michael EGGERT, Institute of Sociology at RWTH Aachen University, Germany
The term “Cloud Computing” (CC) describes models in which users access networks, servers, platforms, and applications as ubiquitous, shared pools of scalable, rapidly provisioned computing resources. Undoubtedly, CC is important for allocating and distributing IT resources: Concepts like Internet of Things or Big Data require dynamic and efficient management of storage, transfer capacities, and computational power.

Furthermore, a significant share of actual everyday communication is realized via cloud technologies; especially when considering the steady rise of global smartphone usage: Smartphones are extraordinarily dependent on CC infrastructures; finally, such infrstructures provide devices and installed applications with full functionality. Hence, with growing interconnectedness of devices and apps/services, different kinds of data are increasingly related to one another, frequently combining big-data-assets with individual data.

Consequently, CC must be considered a relevant technological phenomenon, deeply interwoven with a broad range of social and societal structures and processes: E.g., although not explicitly designed as surveillance technologies, smartphones bear the potential to (and do!) form an extremely dense surveillance network which extends into the most private realm. But the system of ubiquitous visibility emerges, quasi, as a by-product—often borne by seeking gains in quality of life or convenience through the use of such devices.

We explore this issue of privacy and surveillance against the background of cloud-connected smart portable devices drawing on first insights of a recently established interdisciplinary research project on social acceptance of cloud-based smartphone applications. We gain insights into visions and fears that individuals harbor concerning smart artifacts and the socio-technical network they constitute, as well as their expectations about technology's impact on privacy and its influence in terms of behavioral control. The paper concludes with an outlook on the question of trust in smart devices and some implications for their design.