A company with an omnipresent network

We have chosen to translate THE UBIQUITOUS NETWORK SOCIETY by this somewhat obscure term of Ubiquitous Network Society.

Ubiquitous means: “Present, appearing, or found everywhere.

Several articles have been published using this term, such as T. Murakami’s “Ubiquitous Society in Japan” or J. S. Youm’s “Ubiquitous Society Experiences in Korea”.

The article that interests us today is the one by Mr. Dr. Bart W. Schermer, professor at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) on privacy and surveillance in a ubiquitous network society.

Dr. Bart W. Schermer explains that we have moved from an industrial society to an information society in just 30 years.

According to Wooldridge, five trends have emerged with the advent of the computer: “ubiquity, interconnection, intelligence, delegation, and human orientation”.

For Mark Weiser, “The most profound technologies are the ones that disappear. They merge with everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

Ubiquitous technologies

The distinction between the private and public spheres will become increasingly blurred as the ubiquity of technologies advances.

In the ubiquitous networked society, technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Near Field Communication (NFC), 2D matrix codes contribute to the internet of things.

With artificial intelligence, interactivity in our world is increased through technology, and by responding to our wishes and desires.

A concept is developed by Mr. Dr. Bart W. Schermer, that of mirror worlds. These are reflections of our physical world augmented with information. An example is Google Earth. These mirror worlds allow us to better understand our reality, what is around us.

Finally, augmented reality makes this information available by superimposing it on our physical world.

The dangers

Mr. Dr. Bart W. Schermer

Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher, imagined in 1791 the Panopticon, a new system of punishment. Prisoners are scrutinized and observed in their every move. They have no private sphere. Panopticon means in Greek a place that can be observed everywhere. There are two risks: direct discipline and indirect discipline. Concerning this indirect discipline, Foucault noted that the exercise of authority was no longer necessary, since the prisoners always knew they were being observed. The prisoners therefore discipline themselves.

A parallel can be drawn with what is happening at the moment, in the multiplication of surveillance cameras.

Another danger is the lack of transparency. In a ubiquitous networked society, it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish who has access to data, and why and how that data is used.

Yet another danger lies in digital discrimination. Since humans cannot handle all the information presented to them, they will have to focus on a machine-operated filter. This filter will leave out information that might be important, and relying on the machine to sort out useful information might be more damaging than if one had acted without the help of these machines.

In addition, there are false negatives and false positives. False positives are, for example, those people who will be wrongly identified as causing harm. Even with a 99% rate, there is still 1% of false positives and this is quite significant on a country or world scale. On the other hand, false negatives will occur when terrorists or criminals use new methods that have not been considered before. They know how to innovate.

Privacy is also important since probably the birth of mankind. Traditions and taboos create a separation between private and public spheres.


It will be a matter of rethinking privacy. The technologies promised by the ubiquitous network society will greatly simplify our lives. But they are not without danger.

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