Does privacy trump all?

As topical as ever, especially given the recent events in the news, the issue of privacy reared its head during our workshop. Given the nature of Kraydel’s product this was a highly relevant discussion. For those unfamiliar with Kraydel; their device simply plugs into the TV and allows for video calling through the television sets, medication reminders on screen as well as the monitoring of various environmental parameters including movement, sound, light, temperature and electrical device usage. By detecting deviation from the norm in these parameters, the sophisticated algorithms in the cloud platform can make a reasonable prediction of whether or not something is amiss and if enabled a nominated individual would be able to make a video call (have it answered and activate the camera without action at the other end) to check up on their loved one. I’m sure you can appreciate the potential data and privacy issues around this.

Opinion in the room was mixed there were some who held the view that this was all a bit ‘1984’ and that they wouldn’t want their daily habits and behaviours tracked and mapped. Some felt that they wouldn’t want to trouble their loved ones or be burdensome with all this information sharing. However, they appreciated that their views may not be representative and importantly they conceded that this was their opinion at this current point in time and that things could change based on their personal circumstances.

Kraydel themselves were keen to reassure citizens that under new EU legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation would be in effect which ensures all data would be subject to the highest standards and reassuringly it seems the UK are unlikely to opt out of this following Brexit. A great summary of GDPR can be found here.

Hearing from others it became clear that the issue of privacy, though certainly important was one that had to be counterbalanced against others like convenience, security and safety. Though they felt that they were entitled to their privacy they also recognised that being able to live independently in their homes was important to them. Giving up certain privacies in-order to achieve this important goal was a price worth paying. Importantly what transpired was that these decisions reflected a deeply personal choice, based on individual circumstances and were subject to change. From the discussions, this didn’t appear to be a black and white choice, it seemed to exist on a spectrum, the more convenience, safety and security desired the more privacy one might be willing to give up. Reassuringly this is reflected in the GDPR; for data to be held it must be consented for (it’s very specific about what data is being consented for and to what use it will be put to) and this consent can be withdrawn at any point. I think above all irrespective of whether they sat in the pro or con camp, they wanted the choice to make that decision themselves and, in some cases make the choice to hand over the decision-making to a nominated advocate.

It’s clear that the issue of data and privacy is a very fluid and dynamic arena and those involved with it must have awareness of the nuances that surround it. Discussions like these are vital in Living Labs particularly before trials and ideally all stakeholders should be involved. I’m confident that having aired it out we understand each other’s perspectives better and are left in a better position moving forwards. So, in answer to our question, does privacy trump all? Probably not, but how can you know without asking?