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IT: Does Eye Tracking Undermine Privacy?

August 29, 2013 IADT General, Information Technology 0 Comments

Does Eye Tracking Undermine PrivacyIs eye tracking too good to be true? Perhaps.

Eye tracking is pretty self-explanatory. It refers to the ability to control a device with only the movements of your eyes. For a long time, it was a concept discussed but never implemented – IT professionals found it too challenging.

Until now. Eye Tribe succeeded in creating the technology to allow you to control your tablet and other mobile devices. It allows you to browse websites hands-free by combining common eye tracking technology with a front-facing camera and computer-vision algorithms.

Eye Tribe has already been introduced to users through Android devices and Apple is currently working to introduce similar features to its iOS platform.

But some are arguing that this breakthrough in eye tracking technology – though long-discussed and long-awaited – actually invades the privacy of its users. Read their arguments here and decide for yourself:

But what about privacy?

Researchers have been very verbal about the potential future impact of eye tracking on individual privacy.

There are many potential problems that arise from eye tracking technology. Though the technology is currently not advanced enough to invade our privacy in this way, the developments might not be as far off as they seem. In the near future, eye tracking technologies can make it possible for the ads you look at to watch you, reports Tarun Wadhwa of Forbes.

In an interview with Mashable’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, UCLA electrical engineering professor John Villasenor says “Once the technology for eye-tracking is in place, it will glean information conveying not only what we read online, but also how we read it. Did our eyes linger for a few seconds on an advertisement that, in the end, we decided not to click on? How do our eyes move as they take in the contents of a page? Are there certain words, phrases or topics that we appear to prefer or avoid? In the future, will we be served online ads based not only on what we’ve shopped for, but also on the thoughts reflected in our eye movements?”

Franceschi-Bicchierai argues that as the technology continues to advance, it could threaten privacy far beyond the limited confines of smartphone or computer screens. Eye tracking has the potential to reveal a lot about device users. Human beings portray more than they realize from eye movements – including substance abuse problems, levels of intelligence, sexual orientation and cognitive disorders.

Do you think this technology has the potential to undermine your personal privacy? Or do you believe, as an IT student and future professional, that this technology can aid the industry in positive ways? Start a discussion with your peers and instructors about these ethical issues and how they can impact the information technology industry.


What do you think?