£3m project seeks to define privacy for EC

European policy-makers want to nail down the terms 'privacy' and 'security' to help formulate future legislation, and have given a group of researchers more than €3m to conduct a project to gauge European attitudes to the concepts.The Prisms project, which quietly launched on 1 February, was announced on Thursday by German research body the Fraunhofer Institute.

European policy-makers want to nail down the terms 'privacy' and 'security' to help formulate future legislation, and have given a group of researchers more than €3m to conduct a project to gauge European attitudes to the concepts.

The Prisms project, which quietly launched on 1 February, was announced on Thursday by German research body the Fraunhofer Institute.

The project, which has a budget of €3.6m (£3m) will build to a survey of 27,000 people at the end of the year — 1,000 people in each of the 27 member states will be surveyed — with empirical results by summer 2013, Fraunhofer Institute IT research co-ordinator Michael Friedewald told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"The two concepts are rather difficult to systematise," said Friedewald. "Every citizen has a gut feeling about what 'privacy' and 'security' means, but we have on the other side people making decisions where they are willing to give up their privacy and security. There is obviously a gap between thought and action."

The researchers will talk to different groups of people to gauge their attitudes to the concepts before formulating the survey, said Friedewald. Groups of people including technologists, criminologists, politicians, lawyers, and the media, will be consulted on attitudes to security and privacy, Friedewald added.

"Criminologists will have a very different view to technologists, or to the man on the street," said Friedewald.

The terms 'privacy' and 'security' are used in different ways, in different contexts, by different people.

– David Wright, researcher

Privacy advocates in the UK will also be consulted, researcher David Wright of Trilateral Research & Consulting told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

"The terms 'privacy' and 'security' are used in different ways, in different contexts, by different people," said Wright. "How we understand the terms in the UK may differ from understanding in Germany."

One of the aims of the project is to understand how different European populations perceive, and react to, surveillance and other security measures, said Wright.

Eight organisations are involved in the research: Fraunhofer Institut für System und Innovationsforschung (Germany), Trilateral Research & Consulting (UK), the University of Edinburgh (UK), Ipsos MORI (UK), the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), the Eötvös Károly Institute (Hungary), and the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands).