How to Protect your Privacy in Public Space?
Design Research | 4 months
Skill: research through design, critical design, interview, content analysis
Team: Zhiping Zhang, Jing-Cai Liu, Vera

Project Background

Showroom is one of the three methodologies of Constructive Design Research (CDR), along with Lab and Field. CDR is a concept for the term "Research through Design", which indicates design activities playing a formative role in the research process. Showroom methodology has a foundation in critical and speculative design, which leverage artistic and extreme manifestation to promote critical thinking and discussion in regards to conceptual ethical and philosophical issues.

In this project, we use the Showroom methodology to trigger debate and discussion about personal privacy ethics and protections in public space. The issue we address is that compared to online and virtual space, people are less aware of privacy protection and lack tools to actively protect their privacy in public places with the use of ubiquitous surveillance technology. We designed a set of privacy protection items and use them as the artifact to trigger the speculative considerations regarding this topic. The items are introduced and tried by voluntary participants in the center of Eindhoven, and the result is shown below.

Showroom Artifacts

Mask: Protect facial characteristics

Voice Changer: Protect voice characteristics

Phone Case: Protect location data

Results & Findings

We reached out to 20 participants in the city center of Eindhoven, specifically from where we can spot surveillance cameras. The participants were first interviewed about their opinions about privacy issues in public spaces. Then we introduced the three artifacts and ask them to choose one prototype to protect their privacy now. Afterward, we conducted a semi-structured interview.


As the prototypes cannot actually solve the privacy protection problem in actual life, they remain as conversation starters. However, they created a contradictory assumption and push the participants to reflect on their privacy issues in public space. Results show that the demand for privacy protection items is present, however, the fear of abuse of these items is extensive. With regard to fashion reasons and a majority of the participants believe it can be accepted widely as fashion icons or personal statements. In the future, the prototypes could be developed to be more correspond to fashion principles.