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Symposium on Privacy and Security


For the tenth time the symposium was held at ETH. Topics from information security in corporate contexts, genetic and biometric data gathering of persons and an outlook on privacy and security in 2015 were given. Speakers from many different backgrounds underline the symposiums interdisciplinary approach.

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On Wednesday the talks were split in two tracks. One panel dealt with the question how a human body presents a data medium. Special thought was given on the possibilities of genetic and biometric data gathering. The other one dealt with aspects of information security in coporate environments.

The opening talk by Dr. Rippe took a look at this topic from a ethical point of view. His conclusion was that a human body is not primarily a data medium but can be made to one. He challenged thoughts on the issue of human bodies as public goods as well as the disadvantage disabled persons might have.

Next Dr. Bizer presented a talk on self-determination in genetic aspects. He focused on the likeliness of voluntarily passing your genetic details to other parties in light of different roles. For example a job applicants ability to hold back this sensitive information before an employer. He pointed out that it ought to be the other way: A potential employee might ask himself how advantageous a certain job is for him in front of his genetics.

The next speaker was Dr. Reusser who's actively involved in law making in Switzerland. Since 1992 a law on usage of genetic engineering exists. Overall she sees the need for further evaluation and examination of both technologies and laws in this area. Today it is not clearly visible what can be done with genetic engineering in ten years and therefore a critical examination of existing laws has to be undertaken.

The afternoon session started with Prof. Strassers talk on criminal persons and the failures to relate criminal intents with phenotypes besides many efforts in recent centuries. Overall he questions the ability to prevent society from criminals and terrorists by states. Actually a state based on the concept of damage prevention comes naturally along with heavy surveillance and he raises the question on the lack of opposition to this by citizens.

Changing perspectives Mr. Waldner presented the efforts of Switzerlands government to incorporate biometric information in passports. This is partially done and motivated to stay in accordance with international efforts. Both the EU and the US aim for similar goals. Questions on the involved costs are raised by the audience and it is clear that a hot political topic has been touched.

Two data protection officers, Mr. Harb and Mr. Schmid, presented the next topic on biometric technologies and data protection. They made clear what limitations have to be applied on biometric controls to make them legal in Switzerland. As practical though lightweight example access control to a public bath was given.

The session was concluded by Prof. Pfitzmann who critically questioned the usefullness of biometrics for access control. As major obstacle he identified the fact that biometric only deliver percentages and never guarantees. He also questions the scalability of these systems. Taking a look at the not so near future he asks where data protection will be before genome databases and ubiquituous computing.

Dr. Wermelinger presented a summary of todays talks and asked provocatively what data protection is good for if all kinds of privacy intrusion solve todays problems.

Written by Torsten Spindler.

Revision r1.1 - 02 Sep 2005 - 12:00 - TorstenSpindler
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