Augmented Reality and privacy.

       Despite the fact that Augmented Reality is impressing nearly all the people, there are still some issues to improve, like the privacy. One thing is true, the web is getting more and more interconnected to the “real” world, sharing a lot of useful-  and non useful- information with its users. Thanks to some augmented reality apps implemented within mobile devices, like augmented reality browsers, allows users to get this information even when they are on the street. For example, the use of these apps allows you to  recognize physical objects when you point your mobile device at them, to show you reviews of nearby restaurants hovering in the air as you hold up your phone or even to know the location of other people holding a GPS integrated device.

      Clearly, exponentially growing technologies are set to change the way in which people carry out their social communications and share their personal data, bringing up a number of control and privacy questions that worry them. We have seen that this emerging technology seems amazing and cool and it is pushing social communications in exciting directions , but what are the privacy implications of the integration of this kind of technology?

       Depending on how the user will try to use the data, the privacy can play an important role on the technology’ s spreading and further success. For instance, if the user tries to access to public data, there is not an important security issue due to the data is publicly available. In the other hand, if the user tries to access to private data, like personal photos, friends or even your address, then people should be worried about those privacy and security issues. But even in this case we cannot entirely blame the privacy rules, but the users because they do not really realize that they do not share their private data responsibly.  This is not a problem that is unique to augmented reality applications but considering the growth expected in the industry it needs to be addressed and users protected from sharing to much data.The following picture shows an extreme case about what we are trying to explain, where the private data is known by all the users.

Picture 1. This picture shows an extreme case of sharing private data.

      Nearly all people do not want to pull up private details about their lifes and show it to others in real time while they walk on the street, sharing important data which shouldn´t be known for most of them. However, is indubitable that the capability to use your phone in order to see important information about the place you are and its surrounding has the potential to be hugely valuable for another purposes that the aforementioned ones.

      With recent improvements both in devices and algorithms, there is the likelihood that in a future, some percentage of the population opts to run some computer vision application integrated in a very small device which is executed continuously in the background. These computer vision algorithms were developed to detect and recognize objects and even faces in real-time. These portable devices and the pattern recognition and machine learning algorithms implemented on them could mine existent databases which contain pictures of  all the people and objects. Thus, if you feel interested in any of these things – objects or people- some information would be layered over them, being able to find where someone works, when he or she usually walks in a particular street or even where he or she lives. This is frightening and all of us should take care of the way we share our private data.

      Expectations of privacy have certainly evolved since the Internet became popular some years ago. Internet security has also gone up as technology has progressed, but the privacy issues haven’t disappeared yet. Moreover,  there is still a potential issue with sharing and “geotagging” data and who owns that data.

      So, even if privacy laws and security will become 100% reliable,  most of the responsibility to protect the privacy will remain on users.

Do not forget to check out our AR Browser and Image Matching SDKs.

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  1. [...] Despite the fact that Augmented Reality is impressing nearly all the people, there are still some issues to improve, like the privacy.  [...]

  2. [...] recognition there are quite a few other privacy issues triggered by Augmented reality as well. ARLab visually highlights a few of [...]

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