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One of the issues that Dilemmas of Privacy and Surveillance — challenges of technological change looks at is how we can buy ordinary goods and services without having to prove who we are. For many electronic transactions, a name or identity is not needed; just assurance that we are old enough or that we have the money to pay. In short, authorisation, not identification should be all that is required. Services for travel and shopping can be designed to maintain privacy by allowing people to buy goods and use public transport anonymously. "It should be possible to sign up for a loyalty card without having to register it to a particular individual — consumers should be able to decide what information is collected about them," says Professor Nigel Gilbert, Chairman of the Academy working group that produced the report. "We have supermarkets collecting data on our shopping habits and also offering life insurance services. What will they be able to do in 20 years' time, knowing how many donuts we have bought?"
Another issue is that, in the future, there will be more databases holding sensitive personal information. As government moves to providing more electronic services and constructs the National Identity Register, databases will be created that hold information crucial for accessing essential services such as health care and social security. But complex databases and IT networks can suffer from mechanical failure or software bugs. Human error can lead to personal data being lost or stolen. If the system breaks down, as a result of accident or sabotage, millions could be inconvenienced or even have their lives put in danger.
The Academy's report calls for the government to take action to prepare for such failures, making full use of engineering expertise in managing the risks posed by surveillance and data management technologies. It also calls for stricter guidelines for companies who hold personal data, requiring companies to store data securely, to notify customers if their data are lost or stolen, and to tell us what the data are being used for.
"Technologies for collecting, storing, transmitting and processing data are developing rapidly with many potential benefits, from making paying bills more convenient to providing better healthcare," says Professor Gilbert. "However, these techniques could make a significant impact on our privacy. Their development must be monitored and managed so that the effects are properly understood and controlled." Engineering solutions should also be devised which protect the privacy and security of data. For example: electronic personal information could be protected by methods similar to the digital rights management software used to safeguard copyrighted electronic material like music releases, limiting the threat of snooping and leaks of personal data.
The report also investigates the changes in camera surveillance — CCTV cameras can now record digital images that could be stored forever. Predicted improvements in automatic number-plate recognition, recognition of individual's faces and faster methods of searching images mean that it may become possible to search back in time through vast amounts of digital data to find out where people were and what they were doing. The Royal Academy of Engineering's report calls for greater control over the proliferation of camera surveillance and for more research into how public spaces can be monitored while minimising the impact on privacy.
"Engineers' knowledge and experience can help to 'design in privacy' into new IT developments," says Professor Gilbert. "But first, the government and corporations must recognise that they put at risk the trust of citizens and customers if they do not treat privacy issues seriously."
The full report is at http://www.raeng.org.uk/policy/reports/pdf/dilemm
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Michael Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. 650-604-3937/9000 Stephen Attenborough Virgin Galactic, LLC, New York +44 207-664-6030 RELEASE: 07-49 NASA, VIRGIN GALACTIC TO EXPLORE FUTURE COOPERATION MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — NASA officials signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with a U.S. company, Virgin Galactic, LLC, to explore the potential for collaborations on the development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling five or more times the speed of sound. Under the terms of the memorandum, NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, and Virgin Galactic LLC, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, will explore possible collaborations in several technical areas employing capabilities and facilities of NASA's Ames Research Center. "As we constantly seek to build upon the advances made by explorers who have come before us, we now embark upon an exciting time in space exploration history that realizes the unlimited opportunities presented by a commercial space economy," said Shana Dale, NASA's deputy administrator. "By encouraging such potential collaborations, NASA supports the development of greater commercial collaboration and applications that will serve to strengthen and enhance the future benefits of space exploration for all of mankind." Dale is a longtime supporter of commercial space development. As the former staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, she was instrumental in the passage of the Commercial Space Act of 1998. This legislation encourages commercial space development in a variety of areas, including launch vehicles, the International Space Station and the acquisition of space and Earth science data. "This understanding with Virgin Galactic affords NASA an opportunity to work with an emerging company in the commercial human space transportation industry to support the agency's exploration, science and aeronautics mission goals," said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames Research Center. "Our location in California's Silicon Valley provides a dynamic research and development platform for future potential collaborations with other such companies in support of a robust commercial space industry." "We are excited to be working with NASA and look forward to future collaborations in exploration and space travel," said Alex Tai, vice president of operations for Virgin Galactic. The agreement with Virgin Galactic was negotiated through NASA's Space Portal, a newly formed organization in the NASA Research Park at Ames, which seeks to engage new opportunities for NASA to promote the development of the commercial space economy. "This new type of private-public partnership can benefit the agency while helping to foster a new industry," said Dan Coughlin, NASA's lead for the Virgin Galactic agreement. The memorandum of understanding will be in effect for two years and stipulates that neither NASA nor Virgin Galactic will be required to pay any fees or provide funds to support the areas of possible collaboration. For information about NASA and agency programs, please visit: http://www.nasa.gov/"
We listen a lot to internet radio. It brings in local stations that have poor reception and has introduced us to music around the world. In the end we've bought a fair amount of CD's based on our listening. Many of the stations like Radio Paradise are small family run operations. There is no way they can afford these fees. The Save-Internet-Radio website reports that curiously enough, broadcast stations do not pay these fees. Is that true? Is this an attempt to squelch yet another form of free media?"