$3.9 Million Grant to Yale Computer Science: Sensitive Information in a Wired World

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded investigators in the Computer Science Department at Yale University $3.9 million to study the problems of preserving privacy of sensitive information while permitting large scale data searching and management.

Investigators in the Computer Science Department will develop technical, legal, and social approaches to the challenge of satisfying individual privacy while maintaining access to important information. Identity theft, security and anonymity of medical health records, and telemarketing “do-not -call lists” are among the issues a new study at Yale will tackle.

“Sensitive data can be protected by encryption while it is in transmission from source to destination,” said Joan Feigenbaum, professor of computer science at Yale and investigator on the study. “This project addresses what happens after data reaches its destination and has to be decrypted for use.”

Easy access to information can be an advantage - you can shop, bank and set up a date from your home computer. It is also a potential hazard - your credit card, social security number and personal information may be available to unreliable or fraudulent businesses.

The research will investigate the relationship between how the technology works and how it is used. The project looks at legal and social issues and the role they play in technology development and implementation.

“Some, but not all, areas of data management have legal regulation in place,” Feigenbaum stated. “One example of an area in which there are regulations is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), covering personal health-related data. It is interesting from the point of view of this project, because there is still a need for improved integration of privacy protection mechanisms with database management systems.”

Other investigators at Yale are Avi Silverschatz, professor of Computer Science and Ravindran Kannan, the William K Lanman, Jr. Professor, Computer Science.

This project is one of eight large collaborations funded this year by NSF’s Information Technology Research (ITR) program. The partner institutions in the Sensitive-Information ITR Project, awarded $12.5 million over five years, are Yale, Stanford, the University of New Mexico, New York University and the Stevens Institute of Technology. Non-funded affiliates include the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services, Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett -Packard, Citigroup, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Yale Law School and the Yale Center for Medical Informatics.

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Media Contact

Janet Rettig Emanuel: janet.emanuel@yale.edu, 203-432-2157