Helsinki Privacy Experiment



Ubiquitous surveillance refers to unilateral collection of data on people with sensors embedded in their everyday environment. Enabled by progress in ubiquitous computing, surveillance is penetrating into activities that used to be regarded private. With browsers, phones, credit cards, CCTV, e-mail, social media, telecommunications, television and entertainment media, digital documents, and health records already tapped, it is harder and harder to find a sphere of life where data was not collected, indexed, distributed, searched, and inferred. The means for control, if provided at all, are opaque or incomprehensible. These qualities raise ubiquitous surveillance as among the most alarming developments of our time. The Helsinki Privacy Experiment contributes to the understanding of privacy under these conditions.

The Helsinki Privacy Experiment project is a study of the long-term effects of ubiquitous surveillance in home. Ten volunteering households were instrumented with a surveillance and logging system covering the following: 

  • 3-5 video cameras with microphones
  • the use of computer (screenshots and keylogging)
  • wireless and wired network
  • smartphone
  • TV
  • DVD
  • customer loyalty cards

The project examined the participants'

  • stress and anxiety
  • privacy concerns
  • privacy-seeking behavior

after six and twelve months. The findings provide first insight into the privacy-invading character of ubiquitous surveillance. The first paper reports results after six months (see below for download).

Additionally, the project studies the use of different data analysis and fusion methods in order to gain insight into the limits of user profiling and the associated privacy implications. Governments and companies who engage in data collection do not disclose their findings about what can be reliably inferred about humans. We publish our findings about the limits of computer inference in ubiquitous surveillance to inform the stakeholders.


Due to the sensitivity of the collected data only part of the team has access to the actual data.


This section will be updated with software for BOB in October 2012. 


The Helsinki Privacy Experiment is funded by an Academy of Finland project grant (2010-2012).


Long-term Effects of Ubiquitous Surveillance in the Home. Antti Oulasvirta, Aurora Pihlajamaa, Jukka Perkiö, Debarshi Ray, Taneli Vähäkangas, Tero Hasu, Niklas Vainio, Petri Myllymäki, in Proceedings of The 14th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp 2012). Presentation slides


Last updated on 15 Oct 2012 by Jukka Perkiƶ - Page created on 17 Sep 2012 by Jukka Perkiƶ