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Developing tools for anticipating and mitigating the negative societal impact, while preserving the positive impact, of security technologies for use by the developers of these technologies upstream in the design process.

7 March 2012

Timothy Nissen

The aim of my research project is to develop tools for anticipating and mitigating the negative societal response, while preserving and promoting the positive societal response, of society to security technologies, for implementation upstream in the design process. This reflects my belief that those who design and create new security technologies are not simply bringing into being technologies within which the features, functions, and capabilities which will elicit a negative social response are pre-determined. Rather these can be influenced by the conscious design choices of these individuals.

By security technologies I am referring to the product of an engineering endeavour which seeks to deter, prevent or detect crimes, and/or enhance the security of individuals, their property, or the state (including its infrastructure). It is not restricted to technologies designed by individuals holding formal qualifications, such as engineers, scientists, or industrial designers. Finally it encompasses all forms of engineering pursuit so long as what is produced has either a physical or digital presence. The content and shape of these tools will be based on commonalities identified through analysis of both controversial and less-controversial security technologies respectively, as well as interviews with those currently developing these technologies.

Testing of these tools will entail volunteer-based experiments whereby postgraduate engineering students will be required to design security technologies based on hypothetical scenarios, with or without the benefit of our proposed tools. These results will then be assessed by wider focus groups to determine whether technologies designed using our tools possess greater social acceptability.