(Dis)Connect: Privacy in a Digital Age

Liberty Room Winterbourne House
Wednesday 6 June 2018 (09:00-16:30)

If you are interested in participating in this workshop please email Lauren Rawlins.


WORKSHOP LEADERS – Prof Mark Ryan and Dr Garfield Benjamin, School of Computer Science

In an informational age of big data, machine learning and cyber-physical systems, privacy is becoming an increasingly important and divisive issue. Yet privacy remains an ill-defined term, with disconnections between its many technological, socio-political and cultural issues and contexts. The concept is often stretched, perhaps even beyond the point of being useful. In light of the rapidly changing landscape of digital technologies, which are increasingly embedded within our physical and social environment, it is becoming ever more important to cut through the differing languages and rhetoric to uncover the core issues or worries. Through this workshop we will therefore seek a deeper understanding of privacy as a concept. What is privacy? Why do/should we want privacy? From whom or what do we want privacy? What information can/should we keep private? How does privacy relate to other concerns such as power, security and identity? We will also consider privacy as a matter of active agency and the possibility of creating and redefining ‘personal space’ in a hyperconnected world. This in turn can help construct social frameworks and behaviours, and an understanding of what values we seek to protect with privacy. Only by looking beneath the particular manifestations and contexts can we hope to identify a cross-cultural root of privacy that is suitable for a globalised and changing world. How do connected technologies influence attitudes towards privacy across cultures? How are these values changing with new technologies and new generations? What should a global definition of privacy be?


Privacy plays an important role in many fields: computer science, law, business and economics, politics and gender, education and children, philosophy and ethics, and literature and media. Each approach has its own perspective, its own methodological approach, its own language and its own assumptions. How then might we talk across these disciplinary boundaries to promote broader discussion of privacy? This workshop will draw on the multi-disciplinary approaches already being pursued at Birmingham to interrogate the underlying meaning of privacy today and in the future. Connecting researchers from different fields to share their own perspectives, the discussions will lead towards mutual languages that can drive forwards privacy studies to generate not only new technologies but also the political, legal, economic and cultural frameworks required to support privacy for the future.