Dutch have no idea how much they're watched in cities: universities

Surveillance cameras
Surveillance camerasPhoto: Pixinooo/DepositPhotos

People in the Netherlands don't realize how much they are being watched in cities, according to the initial results of study 'Your Neighborhood, Your Data' by the universities of Rotterdam, Delft and Leiden. Dutch people are also happy to share their data, if they feel they get something in return, NU.nl reports. 

For the study, over 1,500 participants were asked to walk around a virtual city and find so-called data collection points, like a check-post, a body cam on a police officer, a radio mast, or a drone. There were 20 such data collection points spread throughout the virtual city. The vast majority of participants found 10. Only a handful found 15 or more. 

According to researcher Emiel Rijshouwer, most people won't notice these collection points until you know to look for them. "An elderly woman told me that she went shopping after the test. She paid more attention to all objects and saw things she did not notice before. For her this was an eye opener." More and more data is collected around us, he added. "In part this is intended to serve citizens better, for safety or better waste and traffic flows. But there are also concerns."

The researchers found that people in the Netherlands are happy to share their data for four main reasons. The first is convenience - they'd rather walk down a street filled with cameras than take a detour of a few minutes to use a street with no cameras. The second is financial - they'd share their purchasing behavior if it means buying groceries for cheaper. Thirdly for social reasons, for example sharing your cycling or running route on Facebook through your exercise app. And the last reason is for safety. According to researchers, young people are less reticent about sharing their personal data than older people. For example, three quarters of young people are happy to have their passports scanned in order to get into an event. 

The study is still ongoing, but so far the researchers distinguished four groups of people. "Generous data sharers" are people who recognize quite a few data collection points, and are happy to share their information. "Stingy data sharers" are people who recognize a reasonable amount of collection points, but consciously share very little of their personal data. "Unwary data sharers" don't recognize many collection points and share a lot of their data. And "separate data sharers" don't recognize many collection points and share little of their data.