Motivation & Objectives

MOTIVATION

Today hundreds of millions of cell phones use GPS and/or WiFi-based technology to support fine-grained location tracking. Powerful APIs that allow mobile developers to easily access this information and share it with advertising networks and other third parties have further contributed to an explosion in the number of mobile apps collecting the user’s location – tens of thousands at last count. Smart phones however are just one facet of location privacy. The browser on our computer, the navigation system in our car, our credit card transactions, RFID technologies, and surveillance cameras are yet some of the many other ways in which our whereabouts are being recorded.

OBJECTIVES

Our research in location privacy aims to:
Better understand, model and capture people’s location privacy preferences
• Develop interface technologies, architectures, protocols and algorithms aimed at mitigating privacy risks associated with the location-enabled Web.

We view location privacy as a harbinger of the many privacy challenges associated with the emergence of pervasive computing and its ecosystem of increasingly context-aware applications, services and infrastructures.

Our overall aim is to better understand how people and society as a whole feel about these technologies and what level of control they can realistically be expected to exert over the disclosure and use of their information. In the process we aim to develop novel technologies that help alleviate privacy risks, by minimizing information disclosures and empowering people to better control what happens to their information. We also aim to make our results available to industry and policy makers and help inform the design of future systems as well ongoing and future policy debates in this area.

Over the years, our research has drawn on human computer interaction, artificial intelligence, mechanism design, machine learning, social science, semantic web technologies, software architectures and algorithms.

We have deployed several systems (see Locaccino, our most recent location sharing application with expressive privacy settings) and are regularly invited to present our results in both industry and policy forums.