VisuAAL-projects at SU Law examine legal aspects of AAL technologies

Video-based technology can be of great help in the care of older adults, but at the same time raises several questions of a legal nature. At SU Law, two PhD students are currently studying these issues within the framework of an EU major research program.

The VisuAAL project, funded by the European Commission, aims to raise awareness and understanding of how video-based technologies can make care of older adults more effective, in the hope of bridging the gap between users’ demands for personal privacy and functionally useful digital care (AAL technologies). This is a highly topical issue, given that the life expectancy of Europe’s population is constantly increasing – as are the costs of caring for them.

Through deeper insight into ethical, legal, privacy and societal issues, VisuAAL hopes that the existing concerns about a “Big Brother” society, where recorded material will be stored and used by unauthorized people for the wrong purpose, can be mitigated and that the benefits of AAL technology can be realized.

A total of 15 doctoral students in various disciplines are funded by VisuAAL, two of them at the Department of Law, Stockholm University, where they are most closely associated with the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute. Professor Peter Wahlgren and Associate Professor Liane Colonna are the Principal Investigators of the project, meaning that in addition to managing the day-to-day activities of the project, including all of the deliverables, they were responsible for writing the grant application and negotiating the contract that made it possible to accept the two doctoral students in the spring of 2021.

–  We are very pleased to have Zhicheng He and Maksymilian Kuzmicz as PhD students at the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute. Their projects address important issues that are highly relevant at a time when AI-based technologies like computer vision are becoming more prevalent in society, says Liane Colonna.

Studying the legal framework for health data management

Zhicheng He is a native of China. His PhD project “Video-based AAL technologies and colliding legal frameworks” involves a comparative legal study between the EU and Chinese legal framework on how health data may be collected, stored and analyzed in the context of using digital technologies in assisted living facilities. He says it is an urgent topic because mapping the complex legal framework surrounding this area can help us better exploit and enjoy the benefits of emerging IT technologies;

–  In recent years, I have witnessed the enormous potential of new IT technologies in the healthcare field, both in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in addressing healthcare issues related to the visuAAL project. All of these advances are heavily dependent on the processing of health data, and I therefore believe that this topic is extremely important.

So far, Zhicheng has presented his research in VisuAAL at four international conferences. In 2022, he published a part of his research in a paper (“Privacy-enhancing Technologies for Active and Assisted Living: What Does the GDPR Say?“) for which he also received the “Best Workshop Student Paper Award” in PETRA 2022. Now he is looking forward to attending the upcoming VisuAAL PhD conference organized by the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute at Stockholm University in April.

Benefiting from senior and junior researchers

–  I really enjoy the free, equal and open research atmosphere at Stockholm University.  Stockholm University provides very good support for PhD students, which has been very helpful for my research.  I am also very glad to be affiliated with IRI. In my opinion, IRI offers new perspectives to legal research. Researchers here are conducting forward-looking and cutting-edge research with an international outlook.  As a lover of law and IT, I feel at home at IRI, says Zhicheng.

Being part of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Network (ITN) also offers great benefits, says Zhicheng. VisuAAL provides training, courses and workshops on scientific and complementary skills relevant to the different PhD projects within the network.

– VisuAAL is highly international, with a well-structured training program for PhD students, including great opportunities for international exchange. VisuAAL is also very interdisciplinary. We have great supervisors and researchers from various fields, such as legal, computer science, and social science.  All members of visuAAL are experts in their respective fields. I have learned a lot from them, says Zhicheng.

Examines how the law should balance interests

Doctoral student Maksymilian Kuzmicz‘s project titled “Video-based AAL technologies and balancing of interests” has the overall aim of examining how the law should balance interests in the context of video-based technologies in digital health care. Broadly speaking, this involves balancing an individual’s right to privacy with the benefits of providing care remotely, for example via video meetings. Like Zhicheng, he says that being part of VisuAAL is an advantage when studying these issues.

–  Being Maria Skłodowska-Curie Fellow gives me network of people working on the same problem but from perspective of different sciences. That allows me to understand the issue better, and conduct interdisciplinary research. That aspect of dialogue is vital for me. That’s also a reason why I appreciate participating in scientific conferences says Maksymilian and continues; 

–  For example, now in March I was attending at CSUN Assistive Technologies Conference, which is the biggest assistive technologies event in the US. Presenting my papers gives me the possibility to inspire and be inspired, discuss and broaden my horizons. Doing a PhD has really given me an opportunity to grow as a person and researcher – at the same time, I can work on issues relevant for the current world.

MORE ABOUT VISUAAL

The VisuAAL research projects are expected to last until spring 2025. Results in the form of articles and participation in conferences are regularly presented on the website:www.visuaal-itn.eu/

Source: VisuAAL-projects at SU Law examine legal aspects of AAL technologies – Department of Law

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