Every time you commute to work, shop for groceries, browse the internet, or even stroll through the park, chances are you’ve revealed information like how probable you are to commit a crime, who you spend time with, your nervous walking behavior, and more. Curious to how and whom you’ve revealed this?

Part I of a blog series about privacy, and how we can raise awareness through a universal privacy label.


As part of CLEVER°FRANKE’s UX Design team, we’re exploring this topic for our research program ‘Demystifying the Smart City’ within our initiative Sensor Lab. This foundation aims to link together different individuals in the community to redefine the possibilities of what smart technology is.

In our mission to discover new solutions, actively share knowledge, and push boundaries of what’s possible, we’re rethinking public spaces to better inform people about data collection and privacy.

As for how and to whom we reveal our personal information: government and private entities employ smart technologies hidden within our cities and websites. Often without our consent, let alone awareness, these technologies make our cities and the internet literal living laboratories.

This first post of four explores why privacy today is problematic.


The Current State of Privacy

Cookie, privacy policy, and terms of service pop-ups seem to endlessly clutter and interrupt today’s web browsing experiences. While not new, they’ve seemingly become more aggressive since the GDPR, Europe’s latest data protection reform, went into effect in May 2018. Although the intentions behind these notices are inherently good, their execution doesn’t appear to be.

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How often do you find yourself taking the time to read into agreements prior to clicking agree? If you’ve answered never, you’re in the majority. And even if you’ve answered yes, how much of these agreements do you comprehend?

If you think about life offline, it’s not all that different. We’re tracked in more ways than we tend to realize, through a network of sensors which analyze and predict information like age, gender, race, behavior, relationships, school drop-out probability, trash disposal, and more.

There are many ways in which this information is used to improve citizen’s quality of life, and foster safer, more sustainable, efficient, and comfortable cities by, for example, improving traffic flow and minimizing crime. But, there are also growing privacy concerns about our lack of awareness and control over what personal information is collected, by whom, and for what intention.

Our limited access to staying aware, informed, and in control of our personal information is in the power of external hands.