DARPA to target cyber privacy protection tech

DARPA program named after Louis Brandeis, legacy Right to Privacy advocate

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Credit: Nasrul Ekram/Flickr

Most days it seems like keeping and protecting any sort of data private is a pipe dream.

There are a variety of research efforts underway to keep private data private but it may be too little to0 late, some experts say.

Despite that notion the researchers at DARPA next month will go over a program the agency says will help develop the “technical means to protect the private and proprietary information of individuals and enterprises.”

The program is named after Louis Brandeis, an associate Supreme Court Justice who was arguably the world’s first privacy champion having helped pen “The Right to Privacy” for the Harvard Law Review in 1890 which is still the basis for a number of privacy protections in the US.

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DARPA said: “The ability to analyze large amounts of aggregated personal data can help businesses optimize online commerce, medical workers address public health issues, and governments interrupt terrorist activities. However, numerous recent incidents involving the disclosure of data have heightened society’s awareness of the vulnerability of private information within cyberspace. There is so much data that it is currently infeasible for individuals or enterprises to control it in a meaningful way with the information technologies available today. “

DARPA did not detail the technical aspects of what Brandeis will be made of but will go over the program on and determine interest in the program at a Proposer’s Day event March 12.

DARPA isn’t the only organization with privacy protection on its drawing board.

For example, IBM recently said it would offer a technology it says uses a cryptographic algorithm to encrypt the certified identity attributes of a user, protecting privacy and enhancing security. Known as Identity Mixer the technology basically prevents third parties or those looking to steal personal information from ever accessing such data in the first place by revealing only selected data to service providers.

The White House just last month issued its Privacy Bill of Rights which among other requirements requires businesses that collect personal data to describe their privacy and security practices and give consumers control over their personal information.

The IDG News Service wrote: “Even though responsible companies provide us with tools to control privacy settings and decide how our personal information is used, too many Americans still feel they have lost control over their data,” the White House said. ”Fears about identity theft, discrimination, and the trade in sensitive data without permission could erode trust in the very companies and services that have made us better connected, empowered, and informed.” The White House proposal however has been met with criticism from advocates who say it doesn’t go far enough in some cases and lets companies off the hook too easily.

Meanwhile the Federal Trade Commission recently rolled out a report that said in order to best reap the benefits of the myriad Internet-connected devices can offer, businesses need to better enhance security and protect consumers’ privacy.

The sheer volume of data that even a small number of devices can generate is stunning: one participant in the workshop indicated that fewer than 10,000 households using the company’s Internet of Things home-automation product can “generate 150 million discrete data points a day” or approximately one data point every six seconds for each household, the report states.

“…the IoT presents a variety of potential security risks that could be exploited to harm consumers by: enabling unauthorized access and misuse of personal information; facilitating attacks on other systems; and creating risks to personal safety. Privacy risks may flow from the collection of personal information, habits, locations, and physical conditions over time….perceived risks to privacy and security, even if not realized, could undermine the consumer confidence necessary for the technologies to meet their full potential, and may result in less widespread adoption,” the FTC stated.

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