Privacy, surveillance, immersive technology, awareness, Global Data Protection Regulation, California Consumer Privacy Act
This paper explains the research process for my thesis project. I am concerned about the adoption of immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). The technology is evolving, but the adoption rate is low. I feel that a part of that has to do with people concerned with their privacy. The immersive technologies would evolve to become the next generation of user experiences. So, I plan to research the potential concerns with the adoption of these technologies and how I can address some of them through my work.
The primary keywords that I am considering for my research are – immersive technology, privacy, and awareness. With news around the exploitation of user data on the web, people in the United States and elsewhere abroad and becoming more conscious about their activities and behaviors on the web. Sometimes, these news headlines make them conscious of their use of technologies, and other times, they blindly adopt any technology if it’s free.
Our identity is what defines us and makes us unique. I want people to understand that and create a delicate balance between using technology and sharing personal information on it. The history of advertising is a marker of how the perception of people has changed over the course of the century. Initially, people found ads intrusive and didn’t want it in their personal space. Now, ad revenue is an established model, and people are okay with them occupying their sight (ads when browsing social media, reading news, streaming videos, etc.).
There is another leg to consider when thinking about data collection. With the increasing regulations on privacy, the companies must organize their data collection practices so that they can provide data to the users.
I was talking to a friend who had worked in data collection at Google, and she said that initially the data collected on Google was anonymized to the point that personal details were not kept for the user. With the regulations imposed by GDPR[i], they had to retain those details, just to ensure that they can give those details to the users in case they ask for them.
An article in the Wall Street Journal this Monday[ii] talks about how the recent privacy law in California would force restaurants and stores like Gap, Starbucks, etc. to share the customer details on request. If a company had not been using that data, now, they will have to save it, and keep it organized in a way that it can be retrieved. This makes me question the idea of privacy requests. What led to the implementation of a regulation that focuses on data organization? What were other systems proposed to prevent of that so that the data could stay anonymized?
I am starting my research by understanding the historical landscape around privacy – what led us to the state we are today in the United States? Then, by asking more fundamental questions, I want to remove any preconceived notions or influences I may have had around this topic. Some of them include, how do people define privacy? What matters the most to people? What makes people trust organizations? What part of their personal information are they willing to give away for convenience or a lucrative product or service?
After understanding the perceptions of people, I want to add a background layer to my research, understanding the industry trends around privacy (how do companies comply with the changing technological environment and the laws on privacy) and how data leaks have impacted people in the past. By compiling the current collection of personal data by companies, I would look for new laws that are mandating or regulating it (like the GDPR in the Europe, and California Consumer Privacy Act in California, the United States). I also want to correlate that with the growing adoption of immersive technologies like AR, VR, and MR, and how personal data might be a factor in its implementation.
After understanding the privacy landscape, I want to find the right media to communicate my message and the corresponding audience for it. With my focus on immersive technology and alignment towards games, I want to see the fitment of educational vs. serious games for getting the idea across. I also want to look at alternate ways to create interactions for individuals to make them conscious of their privacy (and synonymously, their personal data).
The road to research has just started, but as I go towards the thesis, my goal would be to create an experience that makes people realize the value of keeping their lives private and have them actively working towards advocating it in their lives and that of others around them.
There are a few bold claims and hypothesis in this paper. I want to resolve and answer them through my research.
[i] GDPR: Global Data Protection Regulation, imposed by the Europe to secure the privacy of every citizen in Europe
[ii] Haggin, P. (2019, September 8). Businesses Across the Board Scramble to Comply With California Data-Privacy Law. https://www.wsj.com/articles/businesses-across-the-board-scramble-to-comply-with-california-data-privacy-law-11567947602?shareToken=st3a77ad666619436e85a15ed7e7593ab2