Social robots typically move around hospitals, schools and homes. They record their paths, collect information about their environment and scan the faces of every patient or individual they encounter. The information gathering, coupled with analytics software, enables social robots to interact with humans on a daily basis, memorize individual habits, recognize persons, and support us with various task throughout a day. While the ability to move around and connect with individuals is one of the great benefits of social robots, it also raises some challenges, in particular with respect to privacy and data protection. As social robots also affect our sense of intimacy, privacy, bonding and emotional support—in fact, studies in the field of human-robot interaction have shown that humans tend to anthropomorphize social robots—they become more pervasive than other technologies (e.g., mobile computers or smartphones).
How do we deal with issues of surveillance and tracking of patients and individuals? What laws are applicable in this field? What data underlies the decision-making of social robots? How must such data be handled by robots manufacturer or software providers? How much control do individuals have over this data? How do we need to take social bonding issues into account? Or do we need to take special care of more vulnerable populations, such as elderly people, when it comes to privacy protection? Such questions will be part of the privacy discussion round.