Research creates internet privacy tool

August 24, 2010, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

University of Arkansas at Little Rock researchers have developed a new model to manage the "vast ocean" of user-generated content being generated by the ever-growing social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Dr. Nitin Agarwal, assistant professor in EIT’s Department of , and his doctoral student M. Venkata Swamy, worked with Dr. Srini Ramaswamy, former chair of the UALR Computer Science Department and now vice president of research at ABB India, to develop a Context-Based Model. The model leverages intelligent, scalable, adaptive, and robust pattern-matching algorithms to allow Internet sites to automatically adjust privacy needs of consumers or organization to the context in which the data is accessed.

Their paper on the project was awarded “Best Paper” and was presented at the Second International Symposium on Privacy and Security Applications held in conjunction with the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE) International Conference on Privacy, Security, Risk, and Trust this week in Minneapolis, Minn. Only 13 percent of papers submitted at the highly competitive conference are presented.

“With the advent of social media websites such as , Myspace, and , and social health websites such as Patientslikeme that help people with health conditions connect with people with like conditions, a vast ocean of user-generated content has been created — including non-sensitive information as well as sensitive demographic, financial or health-related data,” Agarwal said. “As a result, users may be unknowingly granting access to their data, leading to grave privacy concerns.”

In recent years, companies’ data information centers in industries are facing increasing federal regulations due to these , forcing them to constantly modify their privacy information-handling policies. The existing research on developing privacy models, although seem persuasive, are essentially based on user, role or service identification. Such models are incapable of automatically adjusting privacy needs of consumers or organizations to the context in which the data is accessed.

“In this work, we propose a Context Based Privacy Model (CBPM), which leverages the automatic context identification of the information consumer borrowing concepts from Object Oriented methodology,” the researchers said. A context could be defined as a secure or non-secure location, family members, or group of friends, etc.

“Considering numerous pieces of information such as name, telephone number, e-mail address, age, gender, items purchased online, social interactions each individual generates; and the number of contexts created, the CBPM matrix could quickly become huge and unmanageable.”

The UALR team addresses that problem by leveraging intelligent, scalable, adaptive, and robust pattern-matching algorithms to compress the matrix, making it more manageable.

“Our work has shown the necessity of avant-garde privacy models dealing with the challenges of new types of information sources, creating a vast ocean of data with intricate access requirements and constraints, forcing us to think beyond the existing user, role, or service-based privacy models,” Agarwal said. “The proposed work is unique, one of its kind emphasizing on the context more importantly than the content, with far-reaching implications in the privacy as well as the information security area.”

Explore further: Privacy watchdog files complaint against Facebook

Related Stories

Privacy group files FTC complaint on Google Buzz

February 16, 2010

(AP) -- A privacy watchdog group complained to federal regulators on Tuesday about Google's new Buzz social networking service, saying it violates federal consumer protection law.

Interview: Alan Mislove on virtual privacy

June 8, 2010

( -- Facebook's newest attempt to resolve the privacy issues raised by users is getting mixed reviews. Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Science Alan Mislove, whose research focuses on how people ...

Google crowns Facebook king of Internet visits

May 29, 2010

Google on Friday released Web traffic data indicating that Facebook is king when it comes to online visitors despite criticism about privacy at the social-networking service.

Recommended for you

Virtually modelling the human brain in a computer

April 19, 2018

Neurons that remain active even after the triggering stimulus has been silenced form the basis of short-term memory. The brain uses rhythmically active neurons to combine larger groups of neurons into functional units. Until ...

'Poker face' stripped away by new-age tech

April 14, 2018

Dolby Laboratories chief scientist Poppy Crum tells of a fast-coming time when technology will see right through people no matter how hard they try to hide their feelings.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
One way for consumers (including patients) to send their messages privately through Facebook is to CLOAK them first. This makes sure that Facebook can't read the contents and use it for marketing purposes.

One way to retain your privacy on Facebook is to CLOAK your messages which makes sure that Facebook can't read them.

You still use Facebook as normal but protect your privacy, by CLOAKing those parts of your messages you want to keep private. Neither Facebook nor its advertising partners know what you're writing about.

Pick a keyword, select the Facebook message you want to keep private, CLOAK it and send. Only people you've shared your keyword with can then read that message..

Free Download -
Free Online tool -

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.