Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 157–166 | Cite as

Freedom and Privacy in Ambient Intelligence

  • Philip BreyEmail author


This paper analyzes ethical aspects of the new paradigm of Ambient Intelligence, which is a combination of Ubiquitous Computing and Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI’s). After an introduction to the approach, two key ethical dimensions will be analyzed: freedom and privacy. It is argued that Ambient Intelligence, though often designed to enhance freedom and control, has the potential to limit freedom and autonomy as well. Ambient Intelligence also harbors great privacy risks, and these are explored as well.


Ambient Intelligence autonomy freedom Intelligent User Interfaces invisible computers privacy smart objects Ubiquitous Computing 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aarts, EMarzano, S eds. 2003The New Everyday. Views on Ambient Intelligence010 PublishersRotterdamGoogle Scholar
  2. Aarts, E, Harwig, R, Schuurmans, M 2001Ambient IntelligenceDenning, P eds. The Invisible Future: The Seamless Integration of Technology into Everyday LifeMcGraw-HillNew York235250Google Scholar
  3. Accenture Technology Labs. Seize the Day. The Silent Commerce Imperative (2002). Available at
  4. M. Alcañiz and B. Rey. New Technologies for Ambient Intelligence. In Riva et al. (2005)Google Scholar
  5. A. Araya. Questioning Ubiquitous Computing. In Proceedings of the 1995 ACM 23rd Annual Conference on Computer Science. ACM Press, 1995Google Scholar
  6. I. Berlin. Two Concepts of Liberty. In his Four Essays on Liberty, pp. 118–172. Oxford University Press, 1979Google Scholar
  7. Bohn, J, Coroama, V, Langheinrich, M, Mattern, F, Rohs,  M 2005Social, Economic, and Ethical Implications of Ambient Intelligence and Ubiquitous ComputingWeber,  WRabaey, JAarts, E eds. Ambient IntelligenceSpringerBerlin, Heidelberg, New York, Tokyo529Google Scholar
  8. Brey, P 2005The Importance of Workplace PrivacyHansson,  SPalm, E eds. The Ethics of Workplace PrivacyPeter LangBrussels97118Google Scholar
  9. B. de Ruyter. 365 Days Ambient Intelligence in Homelab. Philips Research. Neroc Publishers, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 2003. Also at http://www.research.
  10. Dreyfus, H 1992What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial ReasonMIT PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Dworkin, G 1988The Theory and Practice of AutonomyCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. M. Gupta. Walls With Ears and Brains. The Unobtrusive Intrusion of Ambient Intelligence. 2002. http://www.
  13. Hill, T 1991Autonomy and Self-RespectCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. ISTAG. Scenarios for Ambient Intelligence in 2010. European Commission, Brussels, 2001.
  15. M. Langheinrich. Privacy by Design – Principles of Privacy-Aware Ubiquitous Systems. In Lecture Notes In Computer Science; Vol. 2201 Archive. Proceedings of the 3rd international conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, pp. 273–291. Springer-Verlag, London, 2001Google Scholar
  16. T. Maeder. What Barbie Wants, Barbie Gets. Wired Magazine, 10(1), January 2002Google Scholar
  17. Maybury, MWahlster, W eds. 1998Readings in Intelligent User InterfacesMorgan KaufmannSan FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  18. M. Minsky. A Conversation with Marvin Minsky about Agents. Communications of the ACM, vol. 37, no. 7, July 1994Google Scholar
  19. M. Raisinghani, A. Benoit, J. Ding, M. Gomez, K. Gupta, V. Gusila, D. Power and O. Schmedding. Ambient Intelligence: Changing Forms of Human–Computer Interaction and their Social Implications. Journal of Digital Information, Vol. 5(4), Article No. 271, 2004Google Scholar
  20. G. Riva, F. Vatalaro, F. Davide and M. Alcañiz. Ambient Intelligence. The Evolution of Technology, Communication and Cognition Towards the Future of Human–Computer Interaction. Vol. 6, Emerging Communication. IOS Press, Amsterdam, 2005. Also online at
  21. Schoeman, F eds. 1984Philosophical Dimensions of Privacy. An AnthologyCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  22. Searle, J 1980Minds, Brains and ProgramsBehavioral and Brain Sciences3417457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tennenhouse, D 2000Proactive ComputingCommunications of the ACM434350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Weber, WRabaey, JAarts, E eds. 2005Ambient IntelligenceSpringerBerlin, Heidelberg, New York, TokyoGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, School of Behavioral SciencesUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations