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5 December 2012 | PR 12/219

Loughborough academics showcase identity technology project to MPs

Houses of Parliament


The initial findings of a Loughborough University led study into modern means of identifying people will be showcased to MPs at Westminster today.

Some of the nine-member team from three universities, led by Loughborough’s Professor Liesbet van Zoonen, will display their results at a stand showing a brochure, a pop-up banner, an inter-active poster, and futuristic forms of identity management technology like smart jewellery.

The aim of the three year IMPRINTS project (Identity Management: Public Responses to Identity Technologies and Services) is to discover how and why people in the UK and America will accept some future forms of identify management technologies while rejecting others.

In the first year, Professor Van Zoonen and her team’s research looked at visions of the future of identity management as found in science fiction, pop culture, art and design, policy documents, journalism and corporate R&D.

And the first findings suggest that the smart phone is the most likely piece of technology to find favour with the public.

Identity cards have already been rejected by the public and the government, and the research has found that that biometric (body odour is being tried out as a biometric measure) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which is already used in public transport cards and libraries, remain controversial.

But the smart phone, often ignored as a possibility for identity management, is the ‘most likely carrier of publicly acceptable and desirable innovations’.

The researchers say that while there is an increased demand for identification (higher security, greater efficiency, better service, more fun and so on), the procedures can cause stress due to concerns about privacy or despair about lost passwords and pincodes.

Nevertheless, it has become almost impossible for people without valid ID to show who they are, and the question for politicians, industry leaders, journalists, artists and media producers is how this can be done this easily and safely in the future?

Professor Van Zoonen, who holds the chair in Media and Communications at Loughborough University, has said: “There is a peculiar paradox between the eager sharing of personal details on social network sites, and the deep anxieties about, for instance, biometric identification or a national identity card.

“In this project we aim to gain a better understanding of such anxieties and appetites, and understand the way citizens will respond to new identity management technologies, services and practices in order to promote trustworthy and pleasurable processes of identity verification.”

To achieve this, researchers are working with stakeholders from civil society and government, security and commercial sectors in the UK and America.

Because of the rapid advance in identity management technologies, services and practices (IM-TSP), the research team are looking at future scenarios as presented in film, literature, consumer trend reports, policy reports, research, and security exploration to map out the expected landscape of identity management.
A range of interview stimuli, including online avatars and art installations, are being used to probe taboos and desires among the public. The research will then produce bespoke instruments for interactive policy, prototype and design development.

The project brings together experts in design, computer science, political science, media, psychology, sociology, and risk management, and findings will inform future government and security policy on identity management and its implementation, as well as provide resources for further research.

The IMPRINTS project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). An additional grant has been awarded by the Department of Homeland Security in America to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to simultaneously conduct the study in the America.

It started in September 2011 and was included in the recent report Big Ideas for the Future which was published by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Universities UK.


For all media enquiries contact:

Chris Goddard
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223491
E: C.J.Goddard@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the Best Student Experience in England every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 12 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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