The Ethical Technology in the Homes of Seniors (ETHOS) group is an NSF-funded Indiana University-Bloomington interdisciplinary team creating a digital toolkit that enables elders to maintain their privacy, while taking full advantage of home-based computing for their health and personal safety. Elders systematically underestimate their electronic privacy risk.
This project examines the role of information technology in the homes of elders with an emphasis on design and evaluation for privacy. The ETHOS team is creating tools that will help elders make appropriate decisions about home-based computing and guide designers in creating privacy-respecting technologies. Current prototypes being evaluated include those that facilitate social networks, encourage healthy behaviors, decrease isolation and support independence. For example, the Mirror Motive augments a commonly found object in the home, a wall mirror, to provide reminders and encourage social interaction. A second prototype encourages elders to increase their levels of physical activity while staying more tightly connected to a community of their peers. Older adults can seamlessly track the indicators of well-being of community members by looking at the equivalent of a wristwatch (e.g. a networked pedometer). The elder can choose to share his or her information with peers without concern that the data will show up in an Internet search. The ETHOS team is also constructing a “Living Lab” in which elders from the local community will interact with these prototypes and others embedded in the home. These older adults will provide critical feedback about the technology’s usability, appropriateness and privacy implications.