Sousveillance: Implications for Privacy, Security, Trust, and the Law


Point of view has its foundations in film. It usually depicts a scene through the eyes of a character. Body-worn video-recording technologies now mean that a wearer can shoot film from a first-person perspective of another subject or object in his or her immediate field of view (FOV). The term sousveillance has been defined by Steve Mann to denote a recording done from a portable device such as a head-mounted display (HMD) unit in which the wearer is a participant in the activity. Some people call it inverse surveillance because it is the opposite of a camera that is wall mounted and fixed.



During the initial rollout of Google Glass, explorers realized that recording other people with an optical HMD unit was not perceived as an acceptable practice despite the fact that the recording was taking place in a public space. Google's blunder was to consider that the device, worn by 8,000 individuals, would go unnoticed, like shopping mall closed-circuit television (CCTV). Instead, what transpired was a mixed reaction by the public—some nonusers were curious and even thrilled at the possibilities claimed by the wearers of Google Glass, while some wearers were refused entry to premises, fined, verbally abused, or even physically assaulted by others in the FOV.

Some citizens and consumers have claimed that law enforcement (if approved through the use of a warrant process) and shop owners have every right to surveil a given locale, dependent on the context of the situation. Surveilling a suspect who may have committed a violent crime or using CCTV as an antitheft mechanism is now commonly perceived as acceptable, but having a camera in your line of sight record you—even incidentally—as you mind your own business can be disturbing for even the most tolerant of people.

Wearers of these prototypes, or even fully fledged commercial products like the Autographer, claim that they record everything around them as part of a need to lifelog or quantify themselves for reflection. Technology like the Narrative Clip may not capture audio or video, but even still shots are enough to reveal someone else's whereabouts, especially if they are innocently posted on Flickr, Instagram, or YouTube. Many of these photographs also have embedded location and time-stamp data. You might not have malicious intent by showing off in front of a landmark, but innocent bystanders captured in the photo could find themselves in a predicament given that the context may be entirely misleading.

Privacy, Security, and Trust

Privacy experts claim that while we once might have been concerned or felt uncomfortable with CCTV being as pervasive as it is today, we are shifting from a limited number of big brothers to ubiquitous little brothers and toward wearable computing. Fueled by social media and instant fame, recording the moment can make you famous as a citizen journalist at the expense of your neighbor.

The fallacy of security is that more cameras do not necessarily mean a safer society. In fact, statistics, depending on how they are presented, may be misleading about reductions in crime in given hotspots. The chilling effect, for instance, dictates that criminals do not just stop committing crime (e.g., selling drugs) because someone installs a bunch of cameras on a busy public route. On the contrary, crime has been shown to be redistributed or relocated to another proximate geographic location. In a study conducted in 2005 for the United Kingdom's Home Office by Martin Gill of the University of Leicester, only one area of a total of 14 studied saw a drop in the number of incidents that could be attributed to CCTV. The problem was with using the existing CCTV systems to “good effect” [1].

Questions of trust seem to be the biggest factor against wearable devices that film other people who have not granted their consent to be recorded. Let's face it: we all know people who do not like to be photographed for reasons we don't quite understand, but it is their right to say, “No, leave me alone.” Others have no trouble being recorded by someone they know, so long as they know they are being recorded prior to the record button being pushed. And still others show utter indifference, claiming that there is no longer anything personal out in the open.

Who's watching whom? Alexander Hayes takes a picture of wearable computer pioneer Steve Mann in Toronto, Canada, during the Conference (IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society 2013), while Mann uses his EyeTap device and high-definition camera to record a surveillance camera. Is this sousveillance squared? (Photo courtesy of Alexander Hayes.)

Who's watching whom? Alexander Hayes takes a picture of wearable computer pioneer Steve Mann in Toronto, Canada, during the Conference (IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society 2013), while Mann uses his EyeTap device and high-definition camera to record a surveillance camera. Is this sousveillance squared? (Photo courtesy of Alexander Hayes.)

Often, the argument is posed that anyone can watch anyone else walk down a street. These individuals fail in their assessment, however—watching someone cross the road is not the same as recording them cross the road, whether by design or by sheer coincidence. Handing out requests for deletion every time someone asks whether they've been captured on camera by another is not good enough. Allowing people to opt out “after the fact” is not consent based and violates fundamental human rights such as the control individuals might have over their own image and the freedom to go about their life as they please.

Using technology like the Narrative Clip may not capture audio or video, but even still shots are enough to reveal someone else's whereabouts, especially if they are innocently posted on Flickr, Instagram, or YouTube.

Laws, Regulations, and Policies

At the present time, laws and regulations pertaining to surveillance and listening devices, privacy, telecommunications, crimes, and even workplace relations require amendments to keep pace with advancements in HMDs and even implantable sensors [2]. The police need to be viewed as enforcing the laws that they are there to upkeep, not to don the very devices they claim to be illegal. Policies in campus settings, such as universities, also need to address the seeming imbalance in what is and is not possible. The commoditization of such devices will only lead to even greater public interest issues coming to the fore. The laws are clearly outdated, and there is controversy over how to overcome the legal implications of emerging technologies. Creating new laws for each new device will lead to an endless drafting of legislation, which is not practicable, and claiming that existing laws can respond to new problems is unrealistic, as users will seek to get around the law via loopholes in a patchwork of statutes.

Cameras provide a power imbalance. First, only a few people had mobile phones with cameras, and now they are everywhere. Then, only some people carried body-worn video recorders for extreme sports, and now, increasingly, using a GoPro, Looxcie, or Taser Axon glasses, while still in their nascent stages, has been met with some acceptance, dependent on the context (e.g., for business-centric applications that free the hands in maintenance). Photoborgs might be hitting back at all the cameras on the walls that are recording 24×7, but they do not cancel out the fact that the photoborgs themselves are doing exactly what they are claiming a fixed, wall-mounted camera is doing to them. But beating “them” at their own game has consequences.

The Überveillance Trajectory

One has to ponder: where to next? Might we be well arguing that we are nearing the point of total surveillance, as everyone begins to record everything around them for reasons of insurance protection, liability, and complaint handling “just in case,” like the in-car black box recorder unit that clears you of wrongdoing in accident? And how gullible might we become that images and video footage do not lie, even though a new breed of hackers is destined to manipulate and tamper with reality to their own ends.

Will the new frontier be surveillance of the heart and mind? The überveillance trajectory refers to the ultimate potentiality for embedded surveillance devices like swallowable pills with onboard sensors, tags, and transponder IDs placed in the subdermal layer of the skin, and even diagnostic image sensors that claim to prevent disease by watching innards or watching outward via the translucent dermal epidermal junction [3]. Just look at the spectacle and aura of the November 2014 “chipping” of Singularity University's cofounder Peter Diamandis if you still think this is conspiracy theory [4]! No folks, it's really happening. This event was followed by the chipping party in Sweden of eight individuals [5]. Let us hope this kind of thing doesn't catch on too widely because we stand to lose our freedom, and that very element that separates man from machine.


This article was adapted from Katina Michael, “Redefining Surveillance: Implications for Privacy, Security, Trust, and the Law,” December 2014, Issues Magazine,


1. BBC. (2005). CCTV systems "fail to cut crime." BBC News. [Online]. Available:

2. R. Clarke, "The regulation of point of view surveillance: A review of Australian law," IEEE Technol. Soc. Mag., vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 40-46, 2014.

3. M. G. Michael and K. Michael, Eds., Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies (Advances in Human and Social Aspects of Technology). Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2013.

4. J. Dorrier. (2014). Summit Europe: Chip implants easy as piercings. Singularity Hub. [Online]. Available:

5. J. Wakefield. (2014). The rise of the Swedish cyborgs. BBC News: technology. [Online]. Available:

Citation: Katina Michael, "Sousveillance: Implications for Privacy, Security, Trust, and the Law", IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, Volume: 4, Issue: 2, April 2015, pp. 92 - 94, DOI: 10.1109/MCE.2015.2393006

The State-Society Relationship: Big Data's Big Future - But for Whom

When we ponder on the future, scenario-based planning is one of a number of approaches we can employ to consider the “what-might-be” possibilities. These are plausible scenarios that let us peer into the future, not with certainty of what will eventuate but with a spirit of consideration and preparedness.

Recently, Katina was invited to participate in Australia's Prime Minister & Cabinet series of workshops on the state-society relationship. A number of fundamental questions were posed at the workshops relating to futures. Some of these are highly pertinent to the thought-provoking Special Section guest edited in this issue by the studious Associate Editor Jeremy Pitt, Ada Diaconescu, and David Bollier, addressing matters of the digital society, big data, and social awareness. The questions included:

  1. What can governments use crowdsourcing for?
  2. How does government operate in a networked environment?
  3. Can Big Data help government solve problems?
  4. How will government respond to the empowered individual?
  5. How can governments effectively manage cities to meet the challenges of urbanization?
  6. How will the government communicate with its citizens given instant communications?

To some degree answering one of these questions provides insights into answers for others. For the purposes of this editorial, we'd rather ask:

  1. What can citizens use crowdsourcing for?
  2. How can companies effectively manage cities to meet the challenges of urbanization?

It should come as no surprise that in the last 12 months, T&S Magazine has published articles on a variety of themes relevant to the above-mentioned questions, relating to smart grids, smart homes, smart meters, energy monitoring, public technical means, public sector information, open government, big data, geosocial intelligence, the veillances (data-, sous- and uber-), future government, crowdsourcing, collective awareness, participatory government, and design science and development.

What binds all of these topical themes together is the emphasis on finite resources available to serve a growing highly mega-urbanized networked glocal population that places immense pressures on the natural environment. Take for example the Beijing-Shanghai corridor fueled with several megacities that are each suffering dire environmental problems. Scientists internationally have especially attempted to raise alarm bells as they report on increases in carbon emissions and air pollution, on rising sea levels (e.g., Jakarta), on changing weather patterns (El-Niño), on dying species of plants and wildlife, on the need for recycling and unacceptable means of waste disposal (especially e-waste), and on the fundamental necessity for clean drinking water.

There is no such thing as the “land of plenty.” Pristine artesian wells are being drilled as a last resort to supplying water to the impoverished. Oil reserves are fast depleting but stockpiles are in the hands of the accumulators. Rich minerals like coal and iron ore are being mined amidst a flurry of research activity into affordable renewable energy sources. Categorically our present actions will have a direct impact on our livelihoods (economic, health, social), and those of our children, and our children's children.

But we are living in the “upgrade generation” fueled by mass production, instantaneous consumption, and enough waste generation to land-fill entire new nations. The core question is whether technology can help solve some of the biggest problems facing our earth or whether the rhetoric that says using technology to correct economic externalities is a misnomer. team survey damage along the Ciliwung River using GeoSocial Rapid Assessment Survey Platform (#GRASP) via Twitter, as neighborhood children look on. team survey damage along the Ciliwung River using GeoSocial Rapid Assessment Survey Platform (#GRASP) via Twitter, as neighborhood children look on.

Let us ponder on the affirmative however. What role can big data play in civic infrastructure planning and development? Can citizens contribute data via crowdsourcing technologies to help service providers and government have better visibility of the problems on the ground?

For example, in the Chinese megacities that have emerged, capturing data that indicates where there is a pressing need for cleaner drinking water is imperative for the health and welfare of citizens. Doing this systematically might mean that citizens contribute this knowledge via a text message or through the use of social media, giving municipal and provincial governments and specific agencies in charge of waterways, such as environmental protection authorities, an ability to better plan and respond in a timely manner.

Similarly, if we can monitor zones prone to flooding that affect tens of millions of people, we might be able to lessen the burden on these citizens by informing civil infrastructure planners in the government to respond to the underlying problems perpetuating the flooding during monsoon season. Refer here to the work of Etienne Turpin and Tomas Holderness of the SMART Infrastructure Facility Here citizens send a text message using Twitter, some with location information and others with photographs attached, allowing partner organizations such as NGOs to get a complete picture of trends and patterns at a dwelling level, and collectively assess areas of major concern affected by banjir (i.e., floods). Is it possible to use this data to drive change?

Socio-technical systems in their purest form are there to fulfill user-centered aims, and not to act against an individual's freedom and human rights. Will we be able to convert the present senseless surveillance fueled by mega-companies and governments to a net-neutral opt-in detection and alert system toward access for basic needs and longer term sustainability for communities far and wide? At what point will citizens be able to donate their mobile and Internet and general utilities data without the risk of potential harm to themselves and their families? Or are we blindly being led down a utopian scenario that will ultimately be used to control or manipulate the masses even further?

Additionally, what will be the repercussions on private enterprise? To date utility companies have been taking advantage of their own inability to offer services that run on efficient energy redistribution to their subscribers. Of course it has never been in their best interest to “rob from the rich to feed the poor,” precisely because by offering this kind of redistribution, utilities companies would negatively be impacting on their bottom line. What will all this big-data achieve? An ever-greater ability to scrutinize the subscriber, based on smart meter data, in order to generate even more revenues for private companies who have taken on once government-based responsibilities.

We must not be myopic – big data can be used for us or against us. This issue presents the positive value of “collective action,” a fundamental ability to commandeer resources together, often self-organized, toward the benefit of our community at large. This is not a new phenomenon but with the aid of technology, both data collection and analysis have become possible at granular levels of detail. It is up to us to anticipate the risks associated with such engineering design principles, and introduce safeguards that will make such an approach work.

Citation: Katina Michael, Xi Chen, 2014, "The State-Society Relationship: Big Data's Big Future - But for Whom", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 3, Fall 2014, pp. 7-8. DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2349572

Impacts: At the intersection between the worlds of consumer electronics and socioeconomics

Editor's Introduction

In our last issue, i wrote about how we'd planned to expand the scope and audience of IEEE Consumer Electronics (CE) Magazine. After all, CE is not just about the design and manufacture of electronic systems and products. These devices and their ecosystems have been changing and altering our lives since the introduction of the TV set in the 1950s and 1960s.

But in today's Internet age, we are so interconnected that society and the economy respond at a much accelerated pace. Changes and disruption that would have taken years, or even decades, back in the 1960s and 1970s can now spread in months or even weeks. And today, their impacts are felt on a global scale, and not just in the developed world, but increasingly among those in the developing world.

As engineers, we are the electronic architects of tomorrow, but the scope and scale of impact that our designs and architectures can have on society and on the economy place significant responsibility on our shoulders. We are all responsible for broadening our perspectives and considering how our work might impact the lives of others. There is much for us to learn beyond the realms of pure science and engineering.

This section of our magazine, aptly titled “Impacts,” is being introduced to help facilitate a broadening of our perspective on the world of CE and to learn more of the various impacts of CE on society. It is introduced in partnership with the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT). Starting with this issue, SSIT members will also be receiving a copy of IEEE CE Magazine, increasing our distribution to IEEE Members in other Societies.

I would like to express a big thank you first to Stefan Mozar, president of the IEEE CE Society, for initiating this collaboration with SSIT and second to Katina Michael, the editor-in-chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, for working with me to put together this first “Impacts ” section.

This is a first attempt, but I think it is a pretty good start—at the same time, I'd much rather hear what some of you think. So please feel free to contact either me or Katina to give your feedback. And we'd welcome suggestions for topics or subject areas that should be addressed in future editions of “Impacts.”

Now a short introduction to our partners on “Impacts ”—the SSIT.

—Peter Corcoran


Introduction to the IEEE SSIT (Katina Michael)

CE has revolutionized the way we live and work. Most students that I know would rather forgo expensive clothing labels than do without their branded smartphone. In fact, some of them would forgo food altogether if it meant their phone could always be on and always with them, clipped onto their belt buckles, strapped into their pants or jacket sleeves, or held in the open palm of their hand. Something happens when our basic needs as humans are overtaken by some other need that was once a distant want at best—plainly, confusion in our ability to rightly determine what our priorities are as humans in any given context.

I have been around people who have lost or had their iPad or iPhone stolen. It is not a pretty sight to see a grown man or woman become frantic and then be reduced to tears over the loss of what is seemingly an inanimate object but in reality has become seamlessly integrated to every aspect of one's life. And lest I look all high and mighty, I had my own laptop stolen with invaluable unbacked Ph.D. research onboard, while working for Nortel Networks and visiting company headquarters in 1999. It took me months to recover from the ordeal, professionally, academically, and even mentally.

The SSIT, with its flagship magazine, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, explores not only the obvious trends toward CE but those aspects that are not given enough attention on the externality spectrum of potential issues—the threat of ever-increasing screen time for children at school and at home, the use of violent video games, and exposure to different types of online media to everyday consumers, consider even the wide ranging topics that go into supporting the development of such an innovation, tracking its existence from conception to the end of its product lifetime.

Taking the smartphone analogy further, as a typical CE device that affects the global population and that has now saturated the consumer market, SSIT would consider everything from the sustainable design of mobile phones to further investigation of the smartphone's posited harmful effects through the emission of electromagneticfields or the potential to do damage to the wearer's inner ear if played on a high volume daily. The Society would also be interested in submissions on the manner of operational health and safety obligations and conditions of companies during the assemblage of the CE components into the finished product in developing nations. The privacy and security of the data on the smartphone would be an area of interest, as would the ability to dispose of the device without producing ever-increasing e-waste mobile phone dumping grounds with hazardous materials thrown into a landfill.

But that is not all. SSIT's greatest focus is perhaps the economic, institutional, and organization infrastructure surrounding CE products. Aspects of this include how developing countries are adopting CE and their impact on equity and access to information toward international development out of the poverty cycle, the ability to offer remote health care and better access to health information services, the importance of public policy surrounding telecommunications in general, and the laws, standards, and regulations in existence to facilitate use, at the same time protecting the consumer. Herein, it is important to weigh the benefits of CE such as the smartphone—on the one hand, providing life-saving capabilities such as access to emergency services, as opposed to the potential to cyberstalk a stranger using mobile social media or even gather location data from a friend's phone to be used surreptitiously at a later date. Equally, we are interested in articles addressing functionality, such as the ability for human activity and condition monitoring from the dozen or so sensors in the smartphone, as well as the basic traditional applications of call patterns, texting, and usage patterns, with respect to communities of practice online. How might these communities be changing the dynamics between state and society both now and into the future?

One thing for certain is that IEEE SSIT shares some fundamental qualities with the IEEE CE Society—that it is one of the most interdisciplinary Societies within the IEEE, and membership spans across disciplines, with a wide spectrum of interests represented. We are actively seeking papers that tackle the social, environmental, economic, political, and ethical impacts of CE on households, businesses, and governments and how the application of such technology can improve the world around us but also how it may adversely affect the very users it was created to aid.

IEEE SSIT hosts the annual conference, the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), and, in 2013, the focus was wearable technologies, while in 2014, the focus will be on ethics and technology. The Society also supports and recognizes engineering ethics, presenting the Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest. With active international Chapters all over the world, IEEE SSIT provides a voice for topics that would otherwise not be addressed from all sides of the debate. It is this open discussion that makes IEEE SSIT and IEEE CE such vital Societies as we continue with the explosion of emerging technologies in all aspects of our home and work life. CE affects everybody—from the newborn baby, to the employee, to the elderly. Viewpoints and cutting-edge pieces on all these perspectives are not only welcome but highly valued.

IEEE Keywords: Social factors, Consumer electronics, Sociology, Economics, Media, Mobile handsets, Ethics, Design manufacturing

Citation: Peter Corcoran and Katina Michael, "Impacts: At the intersection between the worlds of consumer electronics and socioeconomics", IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, Volume: 3, Issue: 3, July 2014, pp. 57 - 58, Date of Publication: 26 June 2014, DOI: 10.1109/MCE.2014.2317897


Beyond Human: Lifelogging and Life Extension

I have often wondered what it would be like to rid myself of a keyboard for data entry, and a computer screen for display. Some of my greatest moments of reflection are when I am in the car driving long distances, cooking in my kitchen, watching the kids play at the park, waiting for a doctor's appointment, or on a plane thousands of meters above sea level. I have always been great at multitasking, but at these times it is often not practical or convenient to be head down typing on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

It would be much easier if I could just make a mental note to record an idea and have it recorded, there and then. And who wouldn't want the ability to “jack into” all the world's knowledge sources in an instant via a network [1]? Who wouldn't want instant access to their life-pages filled with all those memorable occasions? Or even the ability to slow down the process of aging [2], as long as living longer equated to living with mind and body fully intact.

Transhumanists would have us believe that these things are not only possible but inevitable.

In short: we Homo sapiens may dictate the next stage of our evolution through our use of technology.


Shortly after starting my Ph.D., I came across a newly established organization known as the World Transhumanist Association (WTA), now known as Humanity+ (H+), which was founded by Nick Bostrom and David Pearce.

Point 8 of the Transhumanist Declaration states [3]:

“We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.”

First let us consider briefly the traditional notion of a cyborg, part man/part machine, where technology can act to replace the need for human parts.

Steve Mann: “Here's a picture I took of my neckworn camera in 1998, along with other similar more recent devices. The 1998 camera was a “wearable wireless webcam” that had various other sensors in it as well. The microsoft sensecam picture I took in a similar style, and over the years various other products became available. The most recent picture I actually took in exactly the same location as my original camera necklace dome 15 years earlier: 2nd floor of university of toronto bookstore, St. george street entrance.

Steve Mann: “Here's a picture I took of my neckworn camera in 1998, along with other similar more recent devices. The 1998 camera was a “wearable wireless webcam” that had various other sensors in it as well. The microsoft sensecam picture I took in a similar style, and over the years various other products became available. The most recent picture I actually took in exactly the same location as my original camera necklace dome 15 years earlier: 2nd floor of university of toronto bookstore, St. george street entrance.

In this instance, some might willingly undergo surgical amputations for reasons of enhancement and longevity which have naught to do with imminent medical prosthesis.

This might include the ability to get around the “wetware” of the brain, enabling our minds to be downloaded onto supercomputers.

Homo Electricus

Perhaps those who love the look and feel of their human body more than machinery would much rather contemplate a world dominated by a Homo Electricus – a human that will use electro-magnetic techniques for ambient communication with networks [4].

An Electrophorus is thus one who becomes a bearer of technology, inviting nano-and micro-scale devices into his or her body.

An Electrophorus might also use brain-wave techniques, such as the electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the electrical activity of the brain in order to perform actions by thinking about them [5].

This might be the best approach to retaining our inner thoughts for recollection though there are myriad vital issues related to security, access control, and privacy that must be addressed first.


Twenty years ago, when I was still in high school, I would observe my headmaster, who was not all that fond of computers, walking around the playground carrying a tiny Dictaphone in his hands recording things for himself so that he could recollect them afterwards.

When I once asked him why he was engaging in this act, he said:

“Ah … there are so many things to remember! Unless I record them I forget them.”

He was surely onto something. His job required him to remember minute details that necessitated recollection.

Enter Steve Mann in the early 1990s, enrolled in a Ph.D. program at M.I.T. Media Labs and embarking on a project to record his whole life – himself, everyone else, and mostly everything in his field of view, 24/7 [6].

At the time it would have sounded ludicrous to want to record your “whole life,” as Professor Mann puts it. With Mann's wearcam devices (such as Eyetap), one can walk around recording, exactly like a mobile CCTV. The wearer becomes the photoborg.

It is an act Mann has called “sousveillance,” which equates to “watching from below” [7].

This is as opposed to watching from above, like when we are surveilled by CCTV stuck on a building wall such as in George Orwell's dystopic Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Since Mann's endeavor there have been many who have chosen this kind of blackbox recorder lifestyle, and more recently even Google has thrown in their Glass Project equivalent [8].

My guess is that we are about to walk into an era of Person View systems that will show things on ground level through the eyes of our social network, beyond just Street View fly-throughs [9].

Other notable lifeloggers include Gordon Bell of Microsoft [10] and Cathal Gurrin from Dublin City University [11].

M.I.T. researcher Deb Roy lifelogged his son's first year of life (with exceptions) by wiring up his home with video cameras [12].

When we talk about big data, you can't get any bigger than this [13] – chunky multimedia, chunky files of all types from a multitude of sensors, and chunky data ripe for analysis (by police, the government, your boss, and potentially anyone).

But I have often wondered where these individuals have drawn the line – at which occasions they choose to “switch off” the camera, and why [14].

This glogging still does not satisfy the possibility that I might be able to retain and indeed download all my thoughts for retrieval later [15].

A series of still photographs and continuous footage does help me to remember people I've met, things I've shared, knowledge I've gained, and feelings I've experienced. However, lifelogging is limited and cannot record the thoughts I have had at every moment in my life.

In addition, there is an innate problem with recording all my thoughts automatically with some kind of futuristic digital neural network: I would not want every thought I have ever had to be recorded [16].

Let's face it, no-one is perfect and sometimes we think silly things that we would never want stored, shared with others or replayed back to us [17].

These are thoughts which are apt to be misconstrued or misinterpreted, even perhaps in an e-court. We also do and say things at times which may not be criminal but are not the best practice for family, friends, colleagues, or even strangers to witness.

And there are those moments of heartbreak and horror alike that we would never wish to replay for reasons we might be overcome with grief and become chronically depressed.

The beginning and end of Ingmar Bergman's film Persona is reminiscent of a longitudinal glog [18]. See also “The Entire History of You” in the Black Mirror [16] available for download at Directed by Brian Welsh and written by Jesse Armstrong and Charlie Brooker, the movie depicts the future, thanks to the “Grain,” a chip which can be implanted on a hard drive in the brain, with every single action that a person makes being recorded and played back at a later time.

Is More than Human Better?

Evolving in ways that could better our lives can only be a good thing. But evolving to a stage where we humans become something other than human could be less desirable.

Dangers could include:

  • electronic viruses,

  • virtual crimes (such as getting your e-life deleted, rewritten, rebooted, or stolen),

  • having your freedom and autonomy hijacked because you are at the mercy of so called smart grids.

Whatever the likelihood of these potentialities, they too, together with all of the positives, need to be interrogated.

Ultimately we need to be extremely careful that any artificial intelligence we invite into our bodies does not submerge the human consciousness and, in doing so, rule over it.

Remember, in Mary Shelley's 1816 novel Frankenstein, it is Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist, who emerges as the true monster, not the giant who wreaks havoc when he is rejected.


1. W. Gibson, Neuromancer, Ace, 1984.
2. A. de Grey, "A roadmap to end aging", TED, 2007, [online] Available:
3. "Transhumanist Declaration", humanity, 2012, [online] Available:
4. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "Homo Electricus and the continued speciation of humans" in The Encyclopaedia of Information Ethics and Security, IGI Global, pp. 312-318, 2007.
5. K.D. Stephan, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, L. Jacob, E. Anesta, "Social Implications of Technology: Past Present and Future", Proc. IEEE, vol. 100, no. 13, pp. 1752-1781, 2012.
6. S. Mann, D. RikkeFriis, , "Wearable computing" in The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design Foundation, 2013.
7. S. Mann, "Through the glass lightly", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., vol. 2, pp. 10-14, 2012.
8. "Project Glass: One day…", Google, 2012, [online] Available:
9. Map My Tracks, 2010, [online] Available:
10. G. Bell, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, 2013, [online] Available:
11. C. Gurrin, Lecturer at Dublin City University, 2013, [online] Available:
12. D. Roy, "The birth of a word", TED, [online] Available:
13. K. Michael, K. Miller, "Big data: New opportunities and new challenges", IEEE Computer, vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 22-24, 2013.
14. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "No limits to watching?", Commun. ACM, vol. 56, no. 11, pp. 26-28, 2013.
15. S. Mann, "MetaSpaceglasses now available to CYBORGloggers interested in becoming AR developers",, [online] Available:
16. C. Brooker, "Episode 3 - The entire history of you", Black Mirror, 2011, [online] Available:
17. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, "The fallout from emerging technologies: On matters of surveillance social networks and suicide", IEEE Technology and Society Mag., vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 13-17, 2011.
18. I. Bergman, Persona, 1966, [online] Available:
19. Inside cover art Frankenstein, 1831, [online] Available:


“The author would like to thank her fellow collaborator Dr. MG Michael, an honorary associate professor at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, for his insights and valuable input on the initial draft of this article.

This article was first published under the title “People plus: Is transhumanism the next stage in our evolution?” in The Conversation, Oct. 29, 2012. The original article can be found at

IEEE Keywords: Transhuman, Social implications of technology, Electromagnetic devices, Human factors

Citation: Katina Michael, "Beyond Human: Lifelogging and Life Extension", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2014, pp. 4-6.

Drones Humanus

Some years ago, a sweet grandma in my (Christine's) neighborhood was convinced that one of her neighbors was involved in illegal activity. Although my husband and I tried to assuage her overactive mind, she insisted we purchase and deliver binoculars to enable her to perform her civic duty as a self-appointed sleuthhound.

If it had been this year, she could have placed an order on-line and a drone could deliver the packaged binoculars to her front door [1]. Perhaps next year, she can trade in the binoculars for a perching air drone that will not only fly, but also perform a controlled stall with actuators allowing the feet to grip the branch of the tree in her neighbor's yard. The bird-like drone, with motors that can shut down to avoid energy depletion, can sit for long periods of time, recording lots and lots of data [2].

The current environment in which these technologies are emerging causes even the more open-minded members of society to face considerable misunderstandings, exploitation, abuse, and even physical danger as was evidenced during The Burning Man festival this past year [3]. Not surprisingly, a plethora of issues arose at the festival pertaining to drones; many of which related to privacy. It is apparent, there are still fragmented, few, or no regulations. Yet advances in technology allow for more easily concealed devices [4], revolutionary capabilities of remote sensing and capture technology (e.g., LIDAR chip) [5], and decreasing costs to acquire devices [6].

What will we become? We can now buy devices to wear 24/7, logging everything we see, and sending data to our lifelog storage device in the cloud. Perhaps we are now the bird-like drone, but we move from the sky, to the branch, to the inside of people's homes, into their workspaces, and alongside them on roads, trains, and planes. We can capture their interactions, their facial expressions, and the intimate aspects of their everyday experiences [7]. There are seemingly no limits [8].

Much like peer-to-peer security that has proven to be effective in society to reduce disorderly conduct in crowds [9], perhaps people will be paid for drone-like behavior [10]. Perhaps, the sweet, civic-minded grandma in the neighborhood, who lifelogs to pass on a heritage to her progeny, will utilize the same device to capture peer-to-peer data and thereby subsidize her pension. What is the trajectory for society?

If the digital realm plays an ever-increasing role in developing and transmitting social norms, we must consider the many values at stake [11]. The older as well as the younger generations may perceive this as an opportunity to become as fearless as the desert explorers who traversed unknown lands. Only today, the point-of-view #explorers are demonstrating their mean feats to a global theatre using social media in real time to their legions of online followers [12]. Suppose lifelogs lead to an environment in which we are fact-checked against the recorded medium [13]. Your interpretation of an event could be refuted; you would be told, “You were never into jazz.” or “That wasn't such a good time, was it?” [14]. Can synthesized data, capture the spirit behind the poetic license one takes when telling a story to achieve a desired effect? Can an algorithm discern the varied contexts within which our behaviors were recorded? We often have different personae that change over time; and it is often necessary for an individual to have one personae for work, one for family, and yet another for the Internet [15].

The human experience cannot be captured and interpreted easily; we are highly complex and astoundingly dynamic beings. This is the great stuff of humanity. We are ever-changing. We embellish to affect laughter. We create what didn't exist. We make stuff up. We make up rules so we can play games. We make up institutions so we can coordinate problem-solving collective action. Data, especially when so abundant and extensive, can easily undermine such invention. One only needs to ask siblings to describe their shared childhood experiences; one could compare their stories and be exceedingly perplexed. Each sibling has created his or her own narrative; each may have invented a slightly different back story. Can algorithms or a fallible human who chooses how to personally interpret the synthesis of data, appropriately process reality [16]? Moreover, if it can be said that “history belongs to the winners,” then while there exists lifelogging asymmetry (some do, some don't), perhaps it could also be said, equally cynically, that “personal history belongs to the lifeloggers”? Issues arise with this historical record because a lifelogger could easily omit, misrepresent, or even distort and deceive; he or she can willfully create inaccurate narratives which could go unchecked and unchallenged.

The most delightful aspect of visiting that grandma wasn't the amusing humor derived from her comedic idiosyncrasies, but rather it was her rich storytelling. Her husband often had a different take on events. She admitted she chose to forget the painful aspects of the depression era. Yet, she wonderfully verbalized a narrative of her life and times from her perspective. Just as forgetting is an essential part of the human psyche (without which we cannot begin to function), so is the ability to create narratives [17]. In the event of universal lifelogging, could this be lost and replaced with machine-perfected recollections? Without narrative, we have no mythos, and so we have no more explanation for the human condition than logos. We would have much less ability to create a shared sense of community through a commonly told story, and may be stuck instead with a single unalterable personae deterministically crushed by the unbearable tyranny of mundane facts captured through devices.

There are negative ramifications when we allow technology to commodify social concepts, and diminish social relations like privacy, friendship, and loyalty. The resultant consequences, such as the fragmentation of communities, the dissolution of trust, and the diminution of our ability to solve collective action problems, are serious enough. However, such invasive technologies as wearables and bearables are doing something else: they could deprive us of the ability to create personae and narratives [18]. We may discover the obsessive literalism is an axe being taken to the very essence of what it means to be human.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Drones, Privacy, Behavioral science, Security, Information processing,Wearable computers, Surveillance

Citation: Jeremy Pitt, Christine Perakslis, Katina Michael, "Drones Humanus", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 2, Summer 2014, pp. 38 - 39, Date of Publication: 02 June 2014, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2319951

Social Implications of Pervasive Computing

SIPC'14: The Third IEEE International Workshop on Social Implications of Pervasive Computing, 2014 - Welcome and Committees

Welcome Message from the SIPC'14 Co-Chairs

Source: (opener art)

While many technologies have already been developed quite successfully from a technological perspective, their social impact and adoption are still understudied. A main reason being that the pace of technological development is often much faster than the exploration of the societal impact, which takes longer to manifest.

Pervasive computing is arguably one such field which is developing faster than its impact can be studied, particularly in the context of sustainability. Sustainability is a topic that has recently gained significant growing interest among researchers, and affects our everyday lives from healthcare and well being, to energy and architecture. Hence it lends itself particularly well to benefit from advancements in pervasive technologies.

The aim of the Third IEEE workshop on the Social Implications of Pervasive Computing for Sustainable Living (SIPC '14) is to explore the intersection of pervasive computing and sustainability. By examining this area, we aim to develop theories, methods and guidelines to encourage the technology to achieve maximum benefit, with minimal consequence. This will lead to guidance for the wider pervasive computing and sustainability communities, and provide sufficient time to consider the impact of the technology being designed and developed.

SIPC '14 brings together researchers interested in the societal implications of mobile, embedded and pervasive technologies applied in a wide range of contexts and environments. Each submission was reviewed by 3 members of the workshop's international programme committee, with an additional independent meta review, and were accepted based on their quality and relevance to the overall workshop theme. In total, this year's workshop program includes 7 high quality papers that were carefully selected out of 11 submissions (63%). We also accepted 1 redirected contribution from the main conference.

The workshop starts with an invited talk from Zsgfia Ruttkay, Creative Technology Lab, on Pervasive Computing for Sustaining Cultural Heritage. This is followed by our own World Café, which is an activity designed to create stimulating conversation that ends with a group wide coherent story. Following this ice breaker, the first session of presentations will explore ideas around community and choice. This is followed by sessions on adaptive spaces, social networks, collecting/sharing data and healthy living. All with a focus on the social implications of pervasive technologies across the wide variety of sustainable living related contexts.

We would like to thank all authors who submitted papers to the workshop, and express our appreciation for the time, effort and thoughtful reviews invested by the multi-disciplinary members of the programme committee. We would also like to thank the PerCom workshop co-chairs Franca Delmastro and Christine Julien for assisting us in the organization of the workshop.

Workshop Co-Chairs

Stuart Moran, Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham, UK

Irene Lopez de Vallejo, IK4 Tekniker, Avenida Otaola, 20, Eibar, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Katina Michael, School of Information Systems and Technology, University of Wollongong, Australia

Citation: Moran, S.De Vallejo, I.L.Michael, K., "SIPC'14: The third IEEE international workshop on social implications of pervasive computing, 2014 - Welcome and committees", 2014 IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communication Workshops, PERCOM WORKSHOPS 2014, 24-28 March 2014.