Privacy challenges in smart homes for people with dementia and people with intellectual disabilities


The aim of this paper is to analyse the ethical issues relating to privacy that arise in smart homes designed for people with dementia and for people with intellectual disabilities. We outline five different conceptual perspectives on privacy and detail the ways in which smart home technologies may violate residents’ privacy. We specify these privacy threats in a number of areas and under a variety of conceptions of privacy. Furthermore, we illustrate that informed consent may not provide a solution to this problem. We offer a number of recommendations that designers of smart homes for people with dementia and people with intellectual disabilities might follow to ensure the privacy of potential residents.

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    Of course, such a solution brings with it more problems—would consent be considered withdrawn if a person did not properly pay attention to the consent form? If so, would this mean the smart home services would be withdrawn? Such a threat would likely to be considered coercive.


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This research was supported by funding from the charity RESPECT and the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA Grant agreement no. PCOFUND-GA-2013-608728. The ASSISTID programme is co-funded by the charity RESPECT and the European Commission and is coordinated by RESPECT’s research institute DOCTRID, a network of universities, service providers, and industry partners across Ireland, the US and the UK undertaking ground breaking research in intellectual disabilities and autism.

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Correspondence to Fiachra O’Brolcháin.

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O’Brolcháin, F., Gordijn, B. Privacy challenges in smart homes for people with dementia and people with intellectual disabilities. Ethics Inf Technol 21, 253–265 (2019).

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  • Ethics
  • Privacy
  • Aging
  • Dementia
  • Intellectual disability
  • Smart homes
  • Assistive living technologies
  • Informed consent