Ethical and privacy concerns

Ethical Framework

When developing AAL related applications, like POSEIDON, we recommend applications to adhere to the eFriend Framework (Jones et al., 2015). This framework was informed by the Intelligent Environments Manifesto (Augusto et al., 2013) supporting the following principles:

  • P3: Deliver help according to the needs and preferences of those who are being helped.
  • P5: Preserve the privacy of the user/s.
  • P6: Prioritise safety of the user/s at all times.
  • P9: Adhere to the strict principle that the user is in command and the computer obeys.

The eFriend framework relies on the developer following these simple principles:

  1. Non-maleficence and beneficence: systems should be created to not cause any harm, particularly to primary users. Systems should aim to bring social benefits to users, by the increase in their quality of life.
  2. User-centred and multiple user groups: it is important to identify and accommodate the different preferences of various users and their potential conflicts and incompatibilities.
  3. Privacy: The users of such systems should retain the ability to exercise control over monitoring, tracking, and recording activities in the systems. Users should be able to adjust privacy settings for different POSEIDON compatible services.
  4. Data Protection and Security: All data collected in the process of running POSEIDON compatible services must comply with relevant data protection legislations in the territories in which they are consumed e.g. the UK Data Protection Act 1998. Users should also be capable to choose what personal information can be accessed, and how it can be used. Security is a responsibility you should take seriously, including maintaining safety and security of any collected, processed, or stored data.
  5. Autonomy: Another important foundation for user trust. Primary users should be enabled to specify and adjust their level of autonomy. This can include the reconfiguration, customization, and overriding of components in the POSEIDON system, allowing the user to take control.
  6. Transparency: It is important that primary users of POSEIDON compatible systems know and understand how different services can affect their lives in positive and negative aspects. This can be handled by making background tasks including surveillance more visible to the user.
  7. Equality and Dignity: Developers should try to ensure the accessibility and affordability of devices, systems, and services to the primary user. Systems designed to be POSEIDON compatible should ensure social inclusiveness by accommodating different levels of cognition, competence and technical ability. These systems should under no except undermine user dignity, including stigmatising the user.

The most important step by the developing team is to embed these principles in the product, starting by having requirements which are related to each of the principles. In some systems some principles will be more important than others so there will be represented with varying number of requirement, at least one per principle.  

In the design phase, this will include the embedding of these ethical principles in the system architecture and functional specifications. This will be followed by their incorporation into formal methods, behavioural properties, and system agents in the implementation phase. Following the installation of the system, formal verification and validation of the system will ensure that its behaviour is consistent with the key ethical principles.


In the testing phase, pre-pilot studies will be conducted so that the capabilities of the hardware and software used are fit for purpose and fulfil the requirements. This should be accompanied by usability testing with different prototypes, involving field trials and pilot tests from which detailed feedback can be gathered from users.

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