Carnegie Mellon University
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Penumbra of Privacy: Designing with People-Centered and Place-Centered Privacy Values in Shared Smart Workplaces

posted on 2022-07-13, 21:04 authored by Isha Hans

The current digital privacy practices have proven to be insufficient. They have evolved as a reactionary response to the growing concerns instead of being a consideration from the start. Despite being insufficient, these practices have set the status quo for most emerging technologies, including smart buildings, to adopt a purely computing perspective towards privacy. However, buildings and workspaces, whether smart or not, are not computers, but rather places where people’s lives play out. Therefore, this thesis focuses on complementing the current privacy practices, or the umbra, with a broader approach based on human-centered experience and values, or the penumbra. A novel approach is proposed based on two re-framings: 1) combining a people-centric and place-centric perspective for privacy with a computing perspective, and 2) creating preventative approaches instead of remedial ones by embedding people-centric and place-centric privacy values in the front end of the design process for creators. These creators primarily include architects, engineers, designers and building managers. 

The research was conducted in two parts: interviews with the occupants of an existing smart workspace to identify relevant privacy values, followed by a workshop to test how these values might be used in the process by creators. The research concluded that shifting the privacy conversation from software and data management approaches, to one focused on values at the front end of the design process, created greater empathy in creators. It helped them visualize the lived realities of people whose data is collected and processed in a place, and discuss new ideas. This investigation produced seven core principles and fourteen associated values for making privacy a preventive rather than a remedial approach in shared smart workspaces. Even though the principles and values were generated for shared smart workspaces, they are relevant for other shared contexts in the non-domestic realm, and may even be useful for the domestic context with critical reflection and adaptation. These principles and values have been made tangible and approachable for creators through three design outcomes: first: fourteen privacy value cards framed as ideation prompts, second: a privacy toolkit that integrates principles and prompts along with guidance on how to use them, third: a proposal for a platform for an interdisciplinary group of creators working together on smart building projects. In addition to these research and design outcomes, this work also contributes to the privacy discourse through a novel approach better suited for smart buildings.




Degree Type

  • Master's Thesis


  • Design

Degree Name

  • Master of Design (MDes)


Dina El-Zanfaly Lorrie Faith Cranor

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