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Socially Responsible Innovation in Security

This workshop took place from 22–23 October 2015, in collaboration with Prof. Paul De Hert, Prof. Wim Hardyns, Prof. Koen Ponnet, Dr Genserik Reniers, Prof. Sabine Roeser, Prof. Wim Smit and Prof. Mathias Vermeulen.

This workshop analysed the security discourse and the effectiveness of security in the society; the perception of safety among citizens and their attitude towards technological innovations; the privatization of security and the impact of the security industry; the efficiency and effectiveness of the European directives and national legislation with a tradeoff between privacy and transparency on one hand, and security on the other hand; and finally, the practice of criminology. Academic contributions came from the disciplines of philosophy, political science, criminology, law, and economics.

On October 21st the workshop was opened with public lectures by moral philosopher Jeroen van den Hoven of the Delft University of Technology and political scientist and philosopher Peter Burgess of the Research Group on Law, Science, Technology and Society Studies of the Free University of Brussels.

In his introduction, social psychologist Koen Ponnet of the Master of Safety Sciences of the Law Faculty of the University of Antwerp, referred to the complexity of the issue at hand, which demands for thorough investigation. The new Master in Safety Sciences aims to bring together knowledge on the subject, as UCSIA does in bringing together experts for a two-day exchange on research projects.

Jeroen van den Hoven has been a forerunner in promoting responsible innovation for security policy. Big data, converging ICT’s (cloud computing, social networking, mobile computing, the internet of things), neuro imaging, wearables, drones etc. change our perception of man as a quantifiable self and generate personal data which may be used to different ends. With the Snowden affair the problem of privacy and infringement on basic liberties came to the fore.

A core ethical value at stake is trust, which takes years to build, seconds to destroy and forever to repair. Data handling demands evidence of trustworthiness, value commitment and transparency in communication. How may we design in respect of moral values and privacy for a sustainable society?    

We should move beyond the trade-off between privacy and security. How may we assure both rights? By constraining the generation, acquisition and dissemination of personal data in name of the autonomy of the individual who has a right to be the author of his own biography. 

The EU Directive 95 on data protection, currently in review, is a good example. It allows for denouncing breeches in protection and introduces the right to be forgotten. The Rome Declaration on Responsible Innovation (2014) and the European Data Protection Supervisor’s Opinion 4/2015 ‘Towards a New Digital Ethics’ further promote the moral reasons for responsible innovation.

This was followed by Peter Burgess’ critique of socially responsible innovation in matters of security. It is different from other fields of action and should not to be treated as a mere consumer good (before it became a commodity in modern times, security was considered in terms of spiritual peace of mind). On the one hand, it is not entirely clear what is threatening us.  Security invokes ideas of danger and incites us to look for solutions for unknown threats. On the other hand, public funding of research requires it to be useful to society but future insecurity cannot be pre-planned or innovated for in advance. As such new technology may even trigger security demands.   

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