Breathing Room in Monitored Space: The Impact of Passive Monitoring Technology on Privacy in Independent Living
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Purpose of the Study: This study examines articulations of the relationship between privacy and passive monitoring by users and former users of a sensor-based remote monitoring system. A new conceptualization of privacy provides a frame- work for a constructive analysis of the study’s findings with practical implications. Design and Methods: Forty-nine in-depth semistructured interviews were conducted with elder residents, family members, and staff of 6 low-income independent living residence apartment buildings where the passive monitoring system had been offered for 6 years. Transcribed interviews were coded into the Dedoose software service and were analyzed using methods of grounded theory. Results: Five diverse articulations of the relationship between privacy and passive monitoring emerged. The system pro- duced new knowledge about residents and enabled staff to decide how much of that knowledge to disclose to residents. They chose not to disclose to residents their reason for following up on system-generated alerts for 2 reasons: concern that feelings of privacy invasion may arise and cause dissatisfaction with the technology, and the knowledge that many resident users did not comprehend the extent of its features and would be alarmed. Implications: This research reveals the importance and challenges of obtaining informed consent. It identifies where boundary intrusion can occur in the use of passive monitoring as well as how changes to technology design and practice could create opportunities for residents to manage their own boundaries according to their privacy needs. The diversity of approaches to privacy supports the need for “opportunity for boundary management” to be employed as both a design and practice principle.