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13 December 2012 | PR 12/224

MPs upbeat over future identity technology, says Loughborough professor

Izzy Jeffs

Professor Liesbet van Zoonen talking to David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities

MPs believe future generations may not be fazed by modern means of identifying them, according to a Loughborough University academic.

Following the showcasing at Westminster of the initial findings of a Loughborough led study into identity management, Professor Liesbet van Zoonen says MPs are baffled by young people’s behaviour on social media and their willingness to share personal information.

But she added: “They think future generations will have very different attitudes to identity management. They think they will consider identity management as standard, and won’t worry too much about where their data will go.”

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

Professor van Zoonen and IMPRINTS member Dougie Kinear, of Dundee University, showed their first year findings to David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, MPs from the Science and Technology Committee, and people from civic and commercial sectors, like the Environment Agency and British Telecom.

She said: “They consider trust in government to be the main issue for further success of civic identity management, and are concerned about the rapid commercial take-up of identity management.”

Professor van Zoonen says the most significant finding of their research so far is that future visions of identity management are mostly framed as a problem and a risk, and are very much inspired by Orwellian fears and narratives.

The team found these scenarios in science fiction, pop culture, art and design, policy documents, journalism and corporate R&D.

Professor van Zoonen said: “It is rare to see identity management presented as fun and pleasurable, but this can be found in some art and design practices.”

The team showed MPs fun identity tokens like QR scarves, RFID jewellery and Psychic ID cards.

Professor van Zoonen said: “These tokens got them talking intensely and helped them think out of the box. The men preferred a QR tie.”

The IMPRINTS findings also showed that the smart phone is increasingly used as a means for identification and authentication, without evoking the same kind of public controversy as biometrics and identity cards.

Professor van Zoonen said: “The dominant cultural mood around smart phones is one of excitement and expectation, rather than one of fear and anxiety.”

Professor van Zoonen and her team were invited to showcase their first year findings at Westminster by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), who are funding the project.

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.

−ENDS−

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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