The first research centre in Europe to focus on the surveillance society will be launched at the University of Stirling on 18 September.
CRISP - the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy - will study surveillance technologies, how they are used to gather information about our daily activities and the privacy implications for all of us as we go about our everyday lives.
CRISP is a joint initiative between the University of Stirling, the Open University and the University of Edinburgh. It is an interdisciplinary centre bringing together expertise from social sciences, the arts, humanities, information science and other relevant fields.
Stirling’s Professor William Webster is one of the founding Directors of CRISP: “Surveillance technologies can be the everyday things that we take for granted: mobile phones, supermarket loyalty cards, website cookies or satellite navigation systems in the car.
“These create a digital footprint and provide very valuable personal information that can be used by government agencies and private organisations. Currently, we do not have a good enough understanding of the information and its use.
“CRISP will help us to create new knowledge about the surveillance society and to build awareness about how these technologies are used – and the consequences of that use.”
CRISP is also host to the Scottish Privacy Forum, where academics and senior Scottish policy-makers and professional share knowledge about the development of information processes - and their consequences for privacy in public policy and service delivery.
The launch will include a Question Time session, whose members will include Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, and Ken Macdonald, Assistant Commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Ken Macdonald says: “I’m delighted that the long term future of the Scottish Privacy Forum has been secured within the CRISP initiative. The ICO helped establish the Forum in 2009 to assist cross-sectoral exchange of data protection and related matters. It has proved to be a useful vehicle for the development of policy and practice within Scotland.
“The role and reputation of the Scottish privacy Forum can only be enhanced through this development and I look forward to a continuing relationship with the Forum.”
Professor Webster says: “We don’t protect our privacy - how many people read the terms and conditions before they tick the box to give them access to a new service on the internet? We tick the box unthinkingly because we want the service or product.
“As a society, we haven’t valued privacy enough and consequently we do not have a good understanding of what happens to our personal data.”