Professor Helen Nissenbaum recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to expand understanding of privacy and technology. The project, a collaboration with professors Serge Egelman at the International Computer Science Institute at Berkeley and Norman Sadeh at Carnegie Mellon University, builds on Nissenbaum’s pioneering theory of privacy as contextual integrity.

The project aims to understand and improve the privacy controls that are built into the technical systems that we use every day. Most of the time, our apps and devices understand what level of privacy we would like by giving us notice (“we are collecting your data”) and allowing us to consent (“do you agree?”). The notice-and-consent model has been the norm for decades, but the introduction of mobile and IoT devices – which often don’t have interfaces that allow for notice or consent – has changed the game.

Designing privacy controls that consider the context in which devices are used is the next step toward effective privacy for the IoT age. Nissenbaum’s project will begin by implementing user studies to increase understanding of privacy as contextual integrity in real-world environments. It will then use data-driven approaches to expand on methods that help computer systems understand contexts, how they change, and what kind of data sharing is appropriate in which context. Last, the research team will work to design and validate new types of privacy control that are more respectful of contextual norms.