Nav: Home

Smartphone users are redefining privacy in public spaces

April 18, 2016

Private v. public, virtual v. real have converged in a world saturated by information technology. It seems impossible to divide the public from the personal. But when and where do we choose to share information about ourselves? How do we perceive public space and virtual space? And how do these perceptions influence our practices of seeing and being seen?

A Tel Aviv University study recently published in Urban Studies argues that "dynamic visibility," in which technological surveillance is combined with personal information volunteered by individuals online, has led to diminished overall privacy. "Technology is not only used top-down but also bottom-up, with individuals using their own technological devices to share and enhance their visibility in space," said Dr. Tali Hatuka, Head of the Laboratory for Contemporary Urban Design at TAU's Department of Geography and Human Environment.

"Whenever we use 'location-aware' devices, or tap on Waze or dating apps, like Tinder, or check-in on Facebook, we are really diminishing our own privacy," Dr. Hatuka said.

"This combination of secret surveillance and voluntary sharing contributes to a sense of 'being exposed' in a public space that normalizes practices of sharing personal data by individuals," Dr. Hatuka continued. "The result is diminished overall privacy."

Dr. Hatuka co-authored the study with Dr. Eran Toch, co-director of the Interacting with Technology Lab of the Department of Industrial Engineering at TAU's Faculty of Engineering.

Using "Smart-Spaces" to measure sharing

A survey conducted in 2013 by Google and Ipsos MediaCT in dozens of countries found that the Israeli population had the world's highest smartphone saturation (57%) and some of the highest rates of mobile internet usage and mobile email usage. The new TAU study found some differences among sharing preferences in different types of spaces, but these paled in comparison to the overwhelming willingness of participants to share their locations with their social networks.

The researchers developed an Android application called Smart-Spaces to collect information for the study. The app combines smartphone-based surveys with the online tracking of locations and phone application usage. The Smart-Spaces application was installed for 20 days on the phones of TAU students, who answered context-based surveys in the course of their daily routines. Each participant was interviewed before and after the installation of Smart-Spaces.

"More than 73% of the participants shared their locations as they answered the surveys," said Dr. Hatuka. "Moreover, there was a correlation between the kind of space they were in -- private home, library, street, square etc. -- and their willingness to provide information, with a higher willingness to share location and other information when the subject was in public spaces."

The results were analysed according to different activities, locations and number of people present at the time.

A look to the future

"While the sample is not representative of the general population, our results can be considered predictors for future phenomena," Dr. Hatuka observed. "Students are early adopters of smartphone technology, and their practices may predict those of the more general population."

The researchers are continuing to study the link between smartphones, urban space and social behavior to develop a comprehensive picture of current practices and produce concrete suggestions of how to approach emerging challenges.

"Our next objective is to understand what we actually see among an overload of images in an age of digital information," Dr. Hatuka concluded. "We assume that we are less sensitive to our physical environment -- that is obvious. But the question is: What do we actually notice?"
-end-
Tel Aviv University (TAU) is inherently linked to the cultural, scientific and entrepreneurial mecca it represents. It is one of the world's most dynamic research centers and Israel's most distinguished learning environment. Its unique-in-Israel multidisciplinary environment is highly coveted by young researchers and scholars returning to Israel from post-docs and junior faculty positions in the US.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) enthusiastically and industriously pursues the advancement of TAU in the US, raising money, awareness and influence through international alliances that are vital to the future of this already impressive institution.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Related Technology Articles:

April's SLAS Technology is now available
April's Edition of SLAS Technology Features Cover Article, 'CURATE.AI: Optimizing Personalized Medicine with Artificial Intelligence'.
Technology in higher education: learning with it instead of from it
Technology has shifted the way that professors teach students in higher education.
Post-lithium technology
Next-generation batteries will probably see the replacement of lithium ions by more abundant and environmentally benign alkali metal or multivalent ions.
Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom
Introducing tablets and laptops to the classroom has certain educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests that tech has its limitations as well.
The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).
AI technology could help protect water supplies
Progress on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology could make monitoring at water treatment plants cheaper and easier and help safeguard public health.
Transformative technology
UC Davis neuroscientists have developed fluorescence sensors that are opening a new era for the optical recording of dopamine activity in the living brain.
Do the elderly want technology to help them take their medication?
Over 65s say they would find technology to help them take their medications helpful, but need the technology to be familiar, accessible and easy to use, according to research by Queen Mary University of London and University of Cambridge.
Technology detecting RNase activity
A KAIST research team of Professor Hyun Gyu Park at Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering developed a new technology to detect the activity of RNase H, a RNA degrading enzyme.
Taking technology to the next level
Physicists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) developed a new hybrid integrated platform, promising to be a more advanced alternative to conventional integrated circuits.
More Technology News and Technology Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.