Aurelia Tamò and Christoph Lutz on ‘Privacy and Healthcare Robots – An ANT Analysis’

Aurelia Tamò

Aurelia Tamò

Artificial intelligence and robots reach higher and higher capacity levels every year and are increasingly prevalent. Robots are already heavily used in industrial settings, but increasingly also in healthcare, for service tasks, and in households. Social robots register our habits and attitudes, affecting our sense of intimacy, privacy, bonding and emotional support. Studies in the field of human robot interaction have shown that humans tend to anthropomorphize social robots, which substantially increases the pervasiveness of such technology. In addition, per definition robots possess real-life agency, i.e., they not only collect and process information, they also act upon it by physically reaching out into the world. This further increases their pervasiveness and creates the potential for physical damage. With such real-life agency comes an unprecedented potential for access to personal rooms and surveillance. Taken together and coupled with a lack of awareness how such technology works, these aspects threaten to endanger consumers’ privacy and to substantially limit their control of sensitive data (such as emotional states, health information and intimate relationships) when they interact with robots. Summed up, the privacy implications of social robots are far-reaching and concern both informational and physical privacy.

Christoph Lutz

Christoph Lutz

This article addresses the topic of healthcare robots and privacy. The choice of healthcare robots comes from the fact that they often deal with extremely sensitive information and very vulnerable population groups: elderly and/or severely ill individuals. In this sense, they present a “worst case scenario” for privacy, where potential privacy intrusions are especially severe. The authors use actor network theory (ANT) to shed light on the privacy implications of healthcare robots from a specific theoretical point of view. ANT is a descriptive, constructivist approach that takes into account the relationality of technology and the social and the agency of objects, concepts and ideas. It has been applied to complex technological innovations, such as e-health systems. The authors use some of the main concepts of ANT–actants, translations, tokens/quasi-objects, punctualization, obligatory passage point–to “map” the privacy ecosystem in robotic healthcare technology, thereby analyzing the complex interplay of robots and humans in that context.

Aurelia Tamò and Christoph Lutz will present Privacy and healthcare robots – An ANT analysis on Saturday, April 2nd at 8:30 AM with discussant Matt Beane at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center in Coral Gables, Florida.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Comments are closed.