The International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, CA recently announced collaboration with Cornell Tech researchers, led by Professor Helen Nissenbaum, as part of their new NSA-sponsored “lablet” focused on security and privacy research.

The group’s projects will focus on capturing and understanding peoples’ complex attitudes toward privacy in real-world situations. Nissenbaum’s theory of privacy as contextual integrity explains that our expectations for privacy are a product of social and situational contexts. However, the devices and systems that now play an important part in our social lives don’t take into account the ways that information flows in these contexts. Studying the meaning of “context” for both people and systems can help designers create systems that understand contexts and norms in the same way people do.

The researchers hope that their findings will help designers, engineers, and policy-makers build and manage systems in ways that are more privacy-protective. “This ‘lablet’ provides a rare and invaluable opportunity to integrate scientific, empirical, and policy insights with conceptions of privacy that are conceptually rigorous and ethically meaningful,” Nissenbaum said.