British scientists finding ways to prevent information stored on robots from being hacked.
Dying to share a secret but can't trust anyone?
How about sharing it with your robot?
Robots that can keep secrets are presently being designed by scientists from Britain.
Humanoid robots are not just the stuff of science fiction — these computing devices are likely to be walking around our streets in the next decade.
That is why Oxford University researchers are exploring privacy concerns surrounding surrogate robots.
The research team, from the Universities of Oxford, Bath, Exeter, Queen Mary University of London and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have started measuring how people respond to robotic surrogates in public spaces.
The researchers are introducing an advanced-programmed humanoid robot, " Nao" to the public in Bristol in 2015. Finding ways of preventing information stored on the robot being hacked or passed on to others is one of the main challenges.
Explain his work to embed privacy in the design of robots; Dr Ian Brown said that while they will record and transmit what they see and hear, they will not unnecessarily reveal the identities of the people they have captured.
Humanoid robotics is an emerging research field that will become increasingly important as robots start to assist people in their daily lives — for example, becoming companions for older people in their homes.
Dr Brown, associate director of Oxford University's Cyber Security Centre and senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute and his Oxford colleague Dr Joss Wright, are part of a UK team of researchers working on this £2 million three-year project examining the implications of robots in public spaces.
The issue is around how much information is gleaned and stored, particularly as these sociable human-seeming devices could lead to us being less guarded about what we reveal.
Dr Brown said, "When we begin to interact with friendly-looking humanoid robots, our expectations and assumptions shift. New questions arise about how much we trust these devices. Some people might develop an emotional attachment to them, particularly in situations where robots play the role of companions. It is important, therefore, that we design robots that have privacy embedded into their design, so their information gathering is restricted to what is needed to interact and carry out their tasks, and information about the identity of their human users is kept to a minimum. Otherwise, these robot friends could betray the trust of the people they come into contact with, passing on information to third parties."
"Humanoid robots have the potential to gather, store and analyse data about our movements and activities," said Dr Wright. "While they provide opportunities to make our lives easier, the potential loss of control over this information should concern us. At Oxford we have been exploring how individuals can maintain control over information about themselves, while still enjoying the potential benefits of robotic technology."
The techniques being developed for providing information without compromising users' privacy include matching people into groups with similar interests, either online or at social gatherings, without needing each person to share their interests.
This would also allow commuters to search for car-pooling partners without broadcasting their home location and work route, which will be useful as self-driven cars start appearing on Britain's streets. It would also help motorists plan routes allowing for rush-hour traffic without the need for pervasive monitoring infrastructures.