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Where are you now? Precision, Privacy, Consent and the Rapid Proliferation of Geolocation Data

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, April 30, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Smartphones have become a crucial, everyday means by which people are brought together, and provide access to information of all kinds that would be impossible off the network and offline. But the platforms and apps that enable this also allow for the collection and commercialisation of vast amounts of often very personal data, held and exchanged without our knowledge. Geolocation, wherein people and things are ‘placed’, underpins all of these practices, from the ‘geotagging’ of Instagram photos, to the ‘deep mining’ of data that produces sale-able aggregations and personalised data sets.

This project takes forward research from political geography, urban studies and geomatics on the rippling impacts of new technologies on social relations, everyday practices, and the governance of people and things, as a means of investigating this ‘smart’ turn, while acknowledging and responding to the recent uptick in policy and media debates on the reshaping of privacy, anonymity and consent in a society that has become subtended by social media. The project hinges on an analysis of the integrated Multimedia City Data (iMCD), produced by the Urban Big Data Centre, which allows questions around smartphone usage, mobility, perceptions of ICT competencies, and apprehensions around privacy, consent and anonymity to be explored via a rich tranche of survey responses, travel diaries and geolocation tracks from respondents across Glasgow. The iMCD data can animate interview questions with state and industry key informants on the anticipated scope and impacts of increasingly precise geolocation technologies. And, can be augmented by the carrying out of a citizen science element, wherein data privacy issues are foregrounded as tangible practices/events (such as smart advertising points, ‘free’ wi-fi network offers, Google map recommendations, piggy-backing hot spots, and smart payments).

Funding Notes

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:
• A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component
• Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of smart technologies
• Have a good grounding in qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here*:

Award Details:
The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process. The programme will commence in October 2020. It includes:
• an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate
• fees at the standard Home rate
• students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by May 5th. Interviews will take place on May 12th.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Glasgow. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Related Subjects

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