Privacy in ubicomp

Privacy Management in Ubicomp

Kevin Nam, Atul Prakash, Mark Ackerman

Keywords: ubiquitous computing, privacy policy, user agent, meta-policy, mobile devices, user interfaces

In this project, I created a simple user tool that would semi-automatically set privacy policy settings for a mobile device in a ubiquitous computing environment.

The Computer Science building at the University of Michigan has a sensor network that can track a user’s movement inside the building.  A user can set her privacy settings in order to control who can see her location and at what granularity (e.g., building level, room level, (x,y,z) level).  For example, she can specify her friend may see her location throughout the day, but her advisor may only see her during the business hours.  However, a user’s situation is often dynamic and rapidly shifting, and it would be burdensome for a user to manually set privacy policies for every situation.

We ameliorate the problem by allowing a software agent to know certain context about a user’s situation.  The contextual data may come from a user’s personal application such as a calendar, instant messenger, or email, and a user can set a meta-privacy policy that is easier to create and understand.  For example, when there’s a meeting at 1 pm in the building, participants of the meeting can see each other’s location 5 minutes before and after the meeting time.  By setting the meta-policies, many low-level privacy policies can be semi-automatically set, reducing the user’s burden.

Technical details: User interfaces for meta-policy settings are written in JAVA.  The underlying mechanism that connect the sensor network and user applications is written in Perl.