PRISMS project launches in Europe
More security can only be achieved by restrictions of fundamental rights such as privacy. One often hears this sentiment in the current security debate. At first glance, such a trade-off between security and privacy seems self-evident: as a reaction to crime in public spaces millions of CCTV cameras have been installed, data retention and the monitoring of financial transactions are used to investigate and uncover organised crime and terrorism.
But even policy makers have begun to question the legitimacy of the trade-off concept. This has prompted the European Commission to fund the research project called PRISMS (the acronym for PRIvacy and Security MirrorS: Towards a European Framework for Integrated Decision Making). The project is expected to shed light on the controversial relationship between surveillance, security and privacy. "It should be possible to provide greater security, even without infringing fundamental rights," says project co-ordinator Michael Friedewald from the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI in Karlsruhe, Germany.
Central to this research is the question as to what exactly is meant by the terms ’security’ and ’privacy’. Both concepts are imprecisely defined and their meaning changes over time - which has a direct impact on political debate. Based upon a thorough analysis of the relationship between security and privacy from a multitude of scientific perspectives, the research team will conduct an EU-wide representative survey of 27,000 citizens to determine what ordinary people think about the impact on their fundamental rights of technologies that are supposed to improve their security.
One objective of the project is to use the results to inform decision makers in business and politics about the acceptability of new security technologies at an early stage of development. Toward this end, the research team will design a participatory process to deal with societally problematic aspects of such technologies in a timely and deliberated way. This will also help to avoid bad investment and poor resource allocation.
The PRISMS project is being undertaken by a consortium of eight partners. In addition to Fraunhofer ISI (Germany), the other partners are Trilateral Research & Consulting (UK), the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the University of Edinburgh (UK), the Eötvös Károly Institute (Hungary), the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands) and the survey research organisation Ipsos MORI (UK). PRISMS is co-funded under the Security Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research of the European Commission.