Computer Science Research and Privacy

Navigating Computer Science Research Through Waves of Privacy Concerns
Discussions among Computer Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University

by Latanya Sweeney, editor


Computer Science research and practice are raising growing privacy concerns among the public and government.  Computer technology’s increasing ability to capture, organize, interpret and share data about individuals raises questions about what privacy practices computer science researchers should adopt, if any.  These issues are already very real in ongoing research projects in the School of Computer Science (SCS) at Carnegie Mellon University, from mining databases of individual transactions, to studying how people use the web, to mounting cameras in lounges, to building hallway robots that capture data about passers by, to building intelligent workstation assistants that learn user habits.  This paper introduces the nature of privacy concerns often related to computer science research, explains potential benefits and risks (especially of abuse and misuse) and examines traditional and innovative methods for providing privacy assurances in research.  Examples are provided from projects at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. 

Quotations from:: Robert Collins, Scott Fahlman, Robert Kraut, Alex London, Bradley Malin, Dave McKewon, Tom Mitchell, Henry Schneiderman, Mary Shaw, Susan Shingle, Dan Siewiorek, Michael Shamos, and Latanya Sweeney.

Keywords: computer science research, privacy, technology, human subjects, IRB, privacy technology, data privacy

L. Sweeney, Navigating Computer Science Research Through Waves of Privacy Concerns: Discussions among Computer Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, ACM Computers and Society. 34 (1), April 2004.
An earlier version of this paper is available as Carnegie Mellon University, School of Computer Science, Tech Report, CMU CS 03-165, CMU-ISRI-03-102 . Pittsburgh: July 2003. Paper: 18 pages in

Related Links

Related Publications

Copyright © 2011. President and Fellows Harvard University.   |   IQSS   |    Data Privacy Lab   |    []