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A campaign for a privacy-conscious Amsterdam

Like most cities, Amsterdam makes use of technical infrastructure that collects and processes personal data in the public space - be it for safety, commercial or research purposes. But in recent times, privacy concerns have grown and the city wants to tackle these.

In modern day cities, you can’t escape them: cameras are everywhere. They track our every move while providing a sense of safety. Recent EU-wide legal requirements about privacy forced the city of Amsterdam to reorganise its public space data collection. At the same time, the Dutch capital saw an opportunity to address some of the concerns shared by its citizens.

What do citizens value?

The initial scope was limited to an area in the city centre called ‘the red carpet’, which connects Central Station to Dam square. After interviewing a wide range of random locals in the vicinity, it becomes clear that citizens’ issues were not really with the public cameras in the city centre but more so with its purpose. Across the board, those interviewed, regardless of age, gender or profession, agreed that they worried about what happened with the data collected from the cameras (tracking, commercial third parties) and the lack of discussion amongst citizens and the municipality.

A non-solutionist approach

As user insights were more holistic, we took a step back and started looking at digital privacy. The goal was not to design a solution to a current problem, but rather to promote a long-term shift in mindset amongst Amsterdam citizens. More informed citizens can make better decisions and assist the city in accommodating these needs and concerns. The result: a cross-medial campaign on privacy dilemmas: #PrivacyTalks.

Privacy decision training

Together with experts from Tada and the municipality, we took the worries and opinions of citizens and turned them into provocative dilemmas. These dilemmas are relatable, diverse and as impartial as possible. This is to ensure that neither the designer nor the municipality forces an opinion on the citizen. At the same time, the citizen is ‘trained’ in making decisions around their privacy. Each dilemma offers context and background information. Participants are made fully aware of what is at stake and what impacts their resolve has.

Campaigning for the future

These dilemmas are promoted on different platforms, including billboards and informative events. But a more participatory idea was the development of an arcade game and app.

With the arcade, citizens can decide on their dilemmas and compare their answers with others who have completed the questionnaire. The intention is to widen the territorial scope of the project and have the arcade travel around the city, so that more citizens can take part.

Those who miss the arcade, can always complete the dilemmas enquiry on a smart-phone application. The app also extends the experience. It can provide personalised advice and take action based on the person’s answers - eg.: warn of bluetooth connections if that was marked as a concern.

The project features a meerkat as its mascotte. These social animals live in mobs and are always on the lookout. This is exactly what #PrivacyTalks intends to achieve: ensure that citizens are aware of the privacy challenges our society presents.

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