Surveillance, privacy and the ethics of vehicle safety communication technologies

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CitationTo be published in Ethics and Information Technology
AuthorMichael T. Zimmer


Recent advances in wireless technologies have led to the development of intelligent, in-vehicle safety applications designed to share information about the actions of nearby vehicles, potential road hazards, and utimately predict dangerous scenarios or imminent collisions. These vehicle safety communication (VSC) technologies rely on the creation of autonomous, self-organizing, wireless communication networks connecting vehicles with roadside infrastructure and with each other. As the technical standards and communication protocols for VSC technologies are still being developed, certain ethical implications of these new information technologies emerge: Coupled with the predicted safety benifits of VSC applications is a potential rise in the ability to serveil a driver engaging in her everyday activites on the public roads. This paper will explore hwo the introduction of VSC technologies might disrupt the "contextual integrity" of personal information flows in the context of highway travel and threaten one's "privacy in public". Since VSC technologies and their related protocols and standards are still in the developmental stage, the paper will conclude by revealing how close attention to the ethical implications of the remaining design decisions can inform and guide designers of the VSC technologies to create innovative safety applications that increase public safety, but without compromising the value of one's privacy in public.

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