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Digital shadows

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 24 March 2012

When you search the internet or pay with a credit card, do you ever wonder who might be snooping over your shoulder, mining the data about you that leaks out?

Increasingly, computers and algorithms don't need human intervention while monitoring and piecing together the secrets of our lives from the scraps of information which we unwittingly leave behind in cyberspace.

So does this mean that privacy has become obsolete? Or are there either technological fixes or policy initiatives that can at least halt, if not reverse, the tide?

Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss digital privacy are IBM Chief Scientist Jeff Jonas, Professor Nigel Shadbolt, UK government’s adviser on digital data, and ground-breaking electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Illustration by Emily Kasriel: Can we expect privacy in the digital age?


4 items


    Jeff Jonas has been Chief Scientist, IBM Entity Analytics Group and an IBM Distinguished Engineer since 2005. He designs next generation technology which makes organizations smarter, more efficient and highly competitive. In 1984, Jonas founded Systems Research & Development (SRD) and lead it through the design and development of a number of unique systems including technology used by the Las Vegas gaming industry and America’s national security and counterterrorism.

    Jeff Jonas’s blog


    Nigel Shadbolt is Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Southhampton University, and Adviser to the British government on making information from public service organisations widely available online. He was one of the originators of the interdisciplinary field of Web Science and is a Director of the Web Science Trust, and of the Web Foundation: both organisations have a common commitment to advance our understanding of the Web and promote the Web's positive impact on society



    Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a ground breaking electronic artist whose inventive use of surveillance technology turns Big Brother into performance art. His main interest is in creating platforms for public participation, by perverting technologies such as robotics, computerized surveillance or telematic networks. Inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival and animatronics, his light and shadow works are “antimonuments for alien agency”.


    In our Sixty Second Idea To Improve The World, Jeff Jonas wants to ration the use of car horns. Automobile horns are obnoxious, and a form of noise pollution. So you should only get a few free honks a month and after that there is a surcharge to use the horn. As all new cars will soon be connected to the net, it would be cheap and easy to put a sensor on horns, counting each and every time you toot the thing. Then Big Brother in the cybersky would use these statistics to charge people accordingly. This would make the world a better place because it will reduce noise pollution and likely reduce the number of road rage incidence as there will be fewer provocations.

  • In Next Week’s Programme:

    The dividing line between vice and virtue: should we re-examine it in the light of our rapidly changing times? With psychologist Simon Laham, philosopher Emrys Westacott and publisher Urvashi Butalia.



  1. Image for Forum - A World of Ideas

    Forum - A World of Ideas

    The world's most remarkable minds tackle a big idea. Podcast weekly on Saturdays.

  2. Image for Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World

    Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World

    An imaginative, quirky solution to a challenge of our age. Podcast weekly on Saturdays.

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