Australian study looks at public attitudes toward mobile emergency alerts

The use of location-based services by governments to send alerts during emergencies sparked privacy concerns over data collection- but not over the potential for unauthorized secondary use of the data, according to a study published onllne by the journal Telematics snd lnformatics.

The study was based on surveys of residents of Australia, which has considered the use of nationwide mobile alerts in emergencies. The surveys, though, too place in well in advance of leaks by Edward Snowden that have had a major impact on the public discourse over privacy and government data collection.

Overall, Australians would accept location-based services during emergencies, the study says. Perception of whether such a service would be useful depended largely on whether respondents trust the government to control and provide the service effectively.

The perceived usefulness of [location-based services] for emergency management was the key driver behind the individual positive attitude towards using the services and intention toward using them in the future, the researchers found.

There was little evidence, thought, that ease of use would be important to users, the
study says.

The study has been peer-reviewed but not yet published In an Issue of Telematlcs
and lnformatics

It notes that future research could compare the results across countries. "Such studies would shed light on the role of culture and government, such as the role and influence of
government administration in creating disparities in the factors determining the acceptance or rejection of location-based emergency services."

For more: go to the study, "Social acceptance of location-based mobile government services for emergency management" by Aloudat and Michael.

Citation: Zach Rauanitz, September 10, 2013, "Australian study looks at public attitudes toward mobile emergency alerts", Fierce Mobile Government.

Tracking apps could 'undermine trust'

Friday, 11 June 2010 Anna Salleh ABC

Technology like Google Latitude enables people to track their friends, relatives and even partners in real time (Source: ABC News)

New social networking technologies that enable people to track each other's location are challenging everyday notions of trust, says one information technology researcher.

PhD researcher Roba Abbas from the University of Wollongong is presenting her research on "location based social networking" at two conferences this week.

"There are fundamental trust issues where this technology is concerned," says Abbas.

Applications such as Google Latitude and Foursquare are examples of such tracking technology, which can be used on a mobile phone.

It allows people to monitor the location of their partners, friends, relatives and others in real time on an interactive map.

In a focus group study, to be presented to the 9th International Conference on Mobile Business in Greece this week, Abbas found the majority of participants would not adopt the tracking technology.

Participants were concerned about such things as the potential for unwanted surveillance, invasion of privacy, and the ability of the technology to undermine trust in relationships.

A separate pilot study, involving 20 to 25-year-olds asked to carry commercially-available GPS data loggers, revealed some of the scenarios that might arise.

"While the data logging devices were initially perceived as a novelty by participants, significant concerns emerged after further consideration and extensive utilisation of the devices," says Abbas.

Keeping track of loved ones

In the pilot study, participants were interviewed after a period of carrying the GPS devices with them wherever they went, keeping a manual diary of their location and observing the difference.

In some cases, people thought tracking technology could be useful for providing evidence to a partner on their whereabouts.

"Today I was supposed to finish work at 9, but being Easter I didn't get out until 10. When I got to my boyfriend's house he questioned me about where I'd been," said one participant.

"I was able to say 'check the [device] if you don't believe me'. I then realised that in a situation where you had to prove you had been somewhere, the [device] could be used as evidence."

One participant also thought a small version of the device could be used to covertly collect evidence against a potentially guilty partner.

But participants became worried when they discovered the loggers were not always accurate, sometimes recording their location a street away from where they actually were.

Abbas says they were uneasy about the possibility of inaccurate location information being used against someone.

Another participant said, "The [device] has the potential to ruin people's lives because it has the potential to give an incorrect location. For example, if a husband were to track his wife's car, she may have gone shopping, but it's showing the location of the car in the street next to the shopping centre, this could cause many trust issues to arise unnecessarily."

Abbas' research has also found concerns about the ability of people to tamper with the tracking technology and "lie" about where they are.

Human trust

Accuracy aside, people were concerned about the potential for the technology to erode trust among friends and family, says Abbas, who presented the pilot study results at this week's IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society conference in Wollongong.

"You're working towards trusting a technology rather than trusting someone you're in a relationship with," she says.

Abbas says while technological solutions such as privacy settings that allow one to hide locations would go some way to alleviating some concerns, human trust issues are difficult to account for.

"These devices provide you with information on where someone is but it doesn't provide you with information on why they're there and what they're doing," she says.

"It doesn't actually tell you what a person's motives are."

She says this means "inferences and misrepresentations" can be easily made by users.

Abbas PhD research is being supervised by Dr Katina Michael and funded by the UOW and the Australian Research Council.

She says information from her research will be provided to industry to help in the development of "ethically sound location based services".

Tags: information-and-communication, computers-and-technology, social-sciences, relationships

Citation: Anna Salleh, June 11, 2010, "Tracking apps could 'undermine trust'", ABC Science Online

Social Implications Behind Emerging Technologies Examined

WOLLONGONG, Australia, June 7 -- The University of Wollongong issued the following news release:

A three-day international symposium focusing on the social implications of emerging technologies including microchip implants for humans, cyborgs possessing artificial and natural systems and the growth in nanotechnology is being held at UOW from 7-9 June.

It is the first time that the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society has come to the Southern Hemisphere in more than 25 years.

Symposium Program Chair, Associate Professor Katina Michael, said the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society has attracted speakers from 15 countries who will be presenting more than 70 papers.

Discussions will centre on themes and ideas about:

* Automatic identification

* Location-based services

* Social networking

* Nanotechnology

* Privacy, security and human rights

The symposium has brought together academics and practitioners from multiple disciplines including information technology, engineering, law, sociology, ethics, policy, medical, business, accounting and economics.

Some of the key topics at the symposium are examining:

* Nanotechnology: Will it revolutionise health care?

* Ethical aspects of ICT implants in the human body

* The challenge of cyborg* rights

* Tracking and monitoring of living and non-living things

* Internet filtering and regulation in Australia

[*The first generation of cyborgs is alive, well, walking among us - and even running. Pacemakers, clumsy mechanical hands and renal dialysis machines may not match the movie but they have been the leading wave. Greater challenges are posed by the legs of sprinter Oscar Pistorius].

The full program is available here (

Targetted News Service, June 7, 2010, "Social Implications Behind Emerging Technologies Examined".

Rapid pace of technological change goes beyond George Orwell predictions

Bernie Goldie. 29/04/2009

Rapid pace of technological change goes beyond George Orwell predictions

Welcome to the brave new world where national security concerns have presented governments with the justification to introduce surveillance on people on an unprecedented scale and where human chip implants are on the rise.

Ominous scenarios going beyond what was once predicted in novels such as George Orwell’s 1984 are brought to life in a new book, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants, by University of Wollongong (UOW) academics Dr Katina Michael and, Dr M.G. Michael.

The book details the social implications of technology and how new emerging innovations are completely changing the rules of engagement. In 2003, for instance, a family volunteered to officially receive the commercial VeriChip implant for an emergency service application. Such applications are on the rise especially in the United States.



The book was largely written during a time of global geo-political and economic turbulence when the world witnessed a rise in a new kind of terrorism and also large-scale emergencies related to natural disasters and looming pandemics.

The authors highlight that not all of the latest innovative techniques should be viewed negatively. For example, electronic health monitoring solutions are helping doctors gather accurate and timely medical data about their patients and their needs. And in the area of criminal intelligence, GPS tracking units are being used by law enforcement agencies to gather evidence towards convicting suspects of criminal activities or keeping track of parolees who have been released from prison.

The new and emerging technologies however, do carry with them serious implications for privacy, trust, control, and especially human rights. It was as recent as December 2008, that Indonesia’s Papua dropped its plans to microchip about 5,000 HIV/AIDS patients in order to monitor their actions. This raises major concerns about the application of invasive technology by institutions of higher authority. It also raises issues about the application, validity, and viability of the technology in a variety of usability contexts.

Automatic identification has evolved to use techniques that can identify an object or subject without direct human intervention – such devices include bar codes, magnetic-strip, integrated circuit, biometric, radio-frequency and nanotech-based identification.

Dr Katina Michael’s research interests are in the areas of automatic identification, location-based services, emerging mobile technologies, national security and their respective socio-ethical implications. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Information Systems and Technology at UOW, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and on the publications committee of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.

Dr M.G. Michael is an Honorary Senior Fellow in UOW’s School of Information Systems and Technology and a member of the American Academy of Religion. A theologian and historian with broad cross-disciplinary qualifications, Dr Michael provides expertise on ethical issues and the social implications of technology.

He coined the word ‘überveillance’ which this year was voted top in the ‘technology’ category in Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year search. Dr Michael defines the emerging concept of überveillance as “an omnipresent electronic surveillance facilitated by technology that makes it possible to embed surveillance devices in the human body”.

Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants (514pp) has been published by Information Science Reference. The book features seven full-length interviews with notable scientists, including Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading and Professor Christofer Toumazou, Director of the Biomedical Institute at Imperial College. Also featured is Mr Amal Graafstra, the world’s most recognised hobbyist implantee.

Citation: Bernie Goldie, April 29, 2009, "Rapid pace of technological change goes beyond George Orwell predictions", UOW Media Release,

Take Two: Dr Katina Michael & Sarah Fusco

In Summer 2006/0 7, Dr Katina Michael, a senior lecturer in the School of Information Systems and Technology at the University of Wollongong, and her undergraduate student, Sarah Fusco compiled a paper in just 10 weeks on the ethical implications of location-based services for humancentric tracking and monitoring in Summer2006/07. This paper was subsequently published in a high-profile European journal. But their greatest achievement was their newfound friendship...

Katina on Sarah & her career

Dr Katina Michael was ecstatic when she discovered Sarah Fusco had applied for a research scholarship she was offering for the 2006/07 summer. Katina had already met Sarah by chance a couple of months earlier while filling in for a colleague's class.

Katina Michael

Katina Michael

That day, some of the students were presenting for their assessments and I had the opportunity to mark Sarah's seminar," she recalls. "It was probably the best seminar I had ever seen in an undergraduate degree." Still impressed with the young lady's efforts the next day, Katina sent Sarah an email to congratulate her on a class‑topping mark

Katina was confident from the beginning that Sarah would fit the mold as an enthusiastic scholarship recipient and diligent research assistant. And she was right. After just 10 weeks of collaboration, the research duo completed a 60-page paper that was recently published in a high impact, European computer science journal.

"It's not very often you'll find an undergraduate student who has had their work published in a major European journal," says Katina. "If I can hold onto her I will -- I would really love to supervise her if she pursues a PhD. And after uni as well -- I consider her as a friend."

Katina says it's students like Sarah who have really unleashed and solidified her passion for teaching. "When the phone rings, it's not disgruntled clients or customers, but students who are cooperative, modest and humble, and willing to learn. It's not about the money, it's about the people."

But Katina never contemplated a career in teaching when studying her Bachelor of Information Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney. From the outset, she was so determined to make her mark in the industry and defy doubts from family and peers that as a married woman, she would struggle to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated field.

"Because I was married at 18, my family immediately thought I would have 10 kids straight away," the now mother-of-two laughs. "But I ignored all those comments. There is room for children and a husband in your career if you’re a woman. In fact, they’re my biggest inspiration."

This attitude has helped Katina achieve as a dynamic woman employed in computer science. She was employed full-time before the age of 21 with multinational communications corporation, Nortel Networks. At this young age, Katina also already had two other professional work placements under her belt.

Despite commencing her graduate position at Nortel Networks in 1995 as an engineer, Katina’s versatility and initiative saw her create her own position as the company’s market and network analyst for the Asia-Pacific region.

During her time with Nortel, Katina quickly became used to walking into board rooms packed with over 50 males and the occasional female marketing staff. But she will never forget one of her first major board meetings which was probably the most intimidating experience of her career.

"I was only 22 and I literally walked into a room of 65 males who all worked for Nortel," she recalls. "They were all wearing suits and I rocked up about 10 minutes late in my jeans and a casual blouse. When I opened the door, I had 65 sets of eyes of men in their 40s, 50s and 60s staring at me and they were not happy."

Katina says since joining the University of Wollongong as a lecturer in 2002, she has observed a growing gender balance in the computer science subjects she teaches. "But there have been classes that I have taught in which there were only male students," she says.

Katina believes that females are a valuable asset in the computer science industry. "As a director at Nortel Networks once said, women are incredibly talented multi-taskers and lateral thinkers. He said the industry should be a big thing for working mothers and females generally."

Sarah on Katina & her studies

Sarah Fusco can still remember Dr Katina Michael's reply to her application for a summer scholarship in 2006. "She was so excited that I had chosen her topic to pursue over summer and seemed to have seen potential in me which I felt I did not have."

Sarah says it is this confidence in her students that makes Katina such a charismatic teacher. "Katina has a sincere vested interest in ensuring her students not only pass, but also that they learn," she says. "She comes at her position from a personal perspective, with an objective more far reaching than the outcomes of any syllabus." Sarah experienced this for herself over summer 2006/07 when Katina, as her research partner, helped her not only build her knowledge in the world of IT, but also further develop confidence in herself and her work.

"Over the summer Katina would discuss the topics with me as though we had equal knowledge of the area, which was not, and still is not the case. Katina was the ever patient supervisor, one hundred percent confident in me getting the work done with what seemed to be complete faith in my ability to do the work -- something I, myself barely had."

Sarah was especially amazed at Katina's continued patience, even when she lost the only copy of an important interview for their paper which was conducted in London.

"I was transcribing the interview conducted by Katina and had in my possession the one tape which the interview was on. However, I was distracted by talking to a friend in the library and I left it there."

Sarah contacted Katina the next day hoping there was a back-up copy. There wasn't. In the end the tape was found, but Sarah says it was Katina’s calm and forward-looking attitude that really helped them overcome the hiccup so smoothly.

"The email I got back from Katina was very nice. She comforted me and told me not to feel bad."

In the end, co-authoring an internationally published article with Katina has been one of the most rewarding learning curves of Sarah’s undergraduate double degree in Information and Communication Technology and Law.

"I initially wanted to go in the area of physics or mathematics however decided to study information and communication technology," she says. "I was warned by my father, an engineer, at the time that it would be hard to compete in the IT industry, especially because of all the males who had a lot of experience with computer sciences."

But like Katina, Sarah was adamant that she was capable of competing in a traditionally male dominated course. And she sees her studies in law as a wise decision as “the intersection of the two degrees is offering new and exciting areas of study.”

Sarah has been the only female in some of her IT classes, however, she perceives this as an opportunity rather than setback. “Especially in the last two years of my degree, I was able to see myself on an equal footing with my male classmates, and not only offer help to them, but also ask for help from them.” It’s all about perception and attitude to learning, she says.

While Sarah is away on student exchange in Antwerp, Belgium for the Autumn 2008 semester, she is eager to complete her Honours thesis on the social-ethical implications of humancentric monitoring and tracking next Spring. She says she couldn’t have chosen a better supervisor than Katina.

"At first Katina was only my teacher, then she became my supervisor, and then my friend," she says. "I feel so lucky to have fallen in her path and to have chosen her topic for my summer research project. Next semester I will complete my Honours project with her, and after that, we’ll see whether she can still tolerate me."

This article is written by Amanda Madruga, Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies -  Bachelor of Laws student at the University of Wollongong who interviewed Katina and Sarah.

Citation: Amanda K. Madruga, "Take Two: Dr Katina Michael and Sarah Fusco", WISENET, Women in Science Enquiry Network Vol. 77 (2008), Available at: