Public responses to identity management practices and technologies
- Understanding the paradoxical processes of identity management acceptance and rejection
IMPRINTS (Identity Management – Public Responses to Identity Technologies and Services) was a three-year comparative and multidisciplinary research project, interrogating the influences on UK and US publics to engage or not with identity management practices, services and technologies of the future.
These involved new forms of biometric authentication including innovative ‘smart’ tokens like ID or customer cards, jewellery, garment, or further enhanced smart phones.
These technologies have become subject to paradoxical processes of acceptance and rejection. For example, there is concern about electronic patient files, but people share many personal details via social media.
The research gained a better understanding of these paradoxes in order to facilitate public debate, policy development and user-centric applications.
The project examined how these expectations were represented in specific scenarios, which were then intensively discussed with the public in order to map and understand their desires and taboos.
A final project report was published in September 2014, beneficial to government, commercial and civic stakeholders in the UK and the US.
The project’s key findings
For the British public, biometrics are the most controversial and worrying of all means of authentication. Their experience is mostly limited to air travel (to the US in particular). The combination of little direct experience with considerable worry leads to an easily ignited public opinion.
Concerns about biometrics as a technology is connected to a more general need for appropriate procedures for the management of personal data.
Given that biometrics is a controversial technology, transparency of procedures, mechanisms of user control and opt-in or out alternatives are key to the implementation of potentially beneficial biometrics schemes.
Big Idea for the Future
In 2011, the project was selected – by the Research Councils and the Universities of the UK – as a Big Idea for the Future: expecting that our research (and the other Big Ideas) will ‘have a profound effect on the UK future’.
Presentation to Parliament
Professor Liesbet van Zoonen presented evidence to Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee in September 2014.