The Sensor Society

8 May 2014

Since December 2013, UQ Connections has been an exclusively online publication which aims to keep our alumni informed in the age of immediacy.

UQ Connections would like to present the digital editions; a short series of articles focussed around online conduct.

The beginning of our digital editions coincides with Privacy Awareness Week, 4 to 10 May 2014.

For Privacy Awareness Week, The University of Queensland will be staging a multi-disciplinary forum exploring the wide-ranging consequences, issues and opportunities arising from society’s dependence on interactive technology.

One of the conference organisers Mark Burdon, a privacy law expert in UQ’s Law School said the event will look beyond the rhetoric of “big data” to consider who controls our information and how it will be used in the future.

“As cars, phones, and computers get ‘smarter’ the information they collect means they know a lot more about us than they used to – and so do the companies that provide them,” Dr Burdon said.

“Our networked devices now act as ‘sensors’ recording details of our whereabouts, activities, environments, calling patterns and even our moods.”

A third of Australians say that they have had problems with the way that their personal information was handled in the previous year.

“We are rapidly entering a world in which large companies and the nations that regulate the ownership and use of data will have an unprecedented glimpse into our actions and interactions, our communications, and even our thoughts and feelings,” Dr Burdon said.

More than 60 per cent of Australian’s have opted against using a mobile device at some point due to privacy concerns.

“These issues need serious consideration, because it is clear there is no going back; sensors and the forms of data mining they enable are now an embedded part of our lives and they will be more so in the future,” Dr Burdon said.

The other conference organiser Mark Andrejevic, a privacy researcher with UQ has said the sheer quantity of data is something that should be considered.

“We generate about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day - the equivalent of 250,000 Libraries of Congress,” Dr Andrejevic said.

“Facebook alone reportedly enters the equivalent of around 50 Libraries of Congress into its databases each day.”

With an incomprehensible amount of sensor-driven data generated each day, society’s dependence on interactive technology is definitely something that needs to be considered further.

For more information on Dr Andrejevic and Dr Burdon’s conference on defining the sensor society visit here.