Nav: Home

Privacy streams helps developers create privacy friendly apps

September 13, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- A smartphone app that uses the raw feed from the device's microphone or accesses its contact list can raise red flags for a user concerned about privacy. In many cases, however, the app doesn't need all the details that users find most sensitive.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Peking universities have addressed this dilemma by creating a service, PrivacyStreams, that enables app developers to access the smartphone data they need for app functionality while assuring users that their private information isn't being sold to an online marketer or otherwise revealed.

A sleep-monitoring app, for instance, might need to access the smartphone's microphone, but only to register loudness, not to monitor conversations. An app developer could simply sample the microphone feed every minute or so, use software in the PrivacyStreams library to transform the raw data to loudness and then send just the loudness data back to the smartphone for use by the app.

"We're creating a new way of doing programming that makes it easier for the developer and also enhances privacy," said Jason Hong, associate professor of computer science in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). "And while PrivacyStreams is geared to mobile apps, I think we can apply the same idea to the internet of things, or to accessing historical data."

The researchers will present their findings at Ubicomp 2017, the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, Sept. 13-15 in Maui, Hawaii.

"We're assuming that most app developers aren't malicious and that they don't want to violate anyone's privacy. Safeguarding privacy just isn't always the thing that's uppermost in their minds," said Yuvraj Agarwal, assistant professor of computer science in CMU's Institute for Software Research. "So if the developer wants to do the right thing, how do we help them? By saving them time."

The PrivacyStreams library includes a number of programs that can transform personal data into a desired output. A weather app, for instance, might need to access a smartphone's location, but the output would only need to identify a city, a neighborhood or other locality for a forecast. "Instead of developers having to figure out all of this code themselves, we give it to them," Hong said.

Developers also have the opportunity to describe what the data is being used for, which can help users decide whether to install the app or provide permission to access certain data, said Yao Guo, associate professor of computer science at Peking University. Because PrivacyStreams is set up as a pipeline -- raw data streams to the service, then is transformed and transmitted back to the app that requested it -- the process can be audited to ensure that the data is used as described, he added.

If the library proves popular with developers, the researchers say it may someday be possible for PrivacyStreams to certify that apps using the service are using sensitive information responsibly, providing additional guidance to users considering downloading an app.
In addition to Hong, Agarwal and Guo, the research team included Professor Gang Huang and Ph.D. student Yuanchun Li of Peking University; Fanglin Chen and Toby Jia-Jun Li, both Ph.D. students in the HCII; and Matthew Fredrikson, assistant professor of computer science in CMU's Computer Science Department and Institute for Software Research.

The National Key Research and Development Program, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Science Foundation, the China Scholarship Council, and Google supported this research.About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 13,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.

Carnegie Mellon University

Related Smartphone Articles:

Don't rely on smartphone apps to treat back pain
University of Sydney researchers have found that smartphone apps for treating back pain have questionable value as they are generally of poor quality, and have not been rigorously evaluated.
App uses smartphone compass to stop voice hacking
A University at Buffalo-led team of engineers is creating an app to stop voice hacking.
Smartphone-controlled cells help keep diabetes in check
Cells engineered to produce insulin under the command of a smartphone helped keep blood sugar levels within normal limits in diabetic mice, a new study reports.
Smartphone addiction leads to personal, social, workplace problems
Excessive smartphone use leads to problems, and females are especially susceptible to addiction, according to new research from Binghamton University- State University of New York.
Using a smartphone to screen for male infertility
Investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital set out to develop a home-based diagnostic test that could be used to measure semen quality using a smartphone-based device.
Smartphone interruptions: Are yours relentless and annoying?
Does your smartphone spew a relentless stream of text messages, push alerts, social media messages and other noisy notifications?
Live cell imaging using a smartphone
A recent study from Uppsala University shows how smartphones can be used to make movies of living cells, without the need for expensive equipment.
Smartphone apps may help study cardiovascular health, behaviors
In a study published online by JAMA Cardiology, Euan A.
Smartphone app for early autism detection being developed by UB undergrad
Early detection of autism can dramatically improve the benefits of treatment, but often the disability is not suspected until a child enters school.
Increased smartphone screen-time associated with lower sleep quality
Exposure to smartphone screens is associated with lower sleep quality, according to a study published Nov.

Related Smartphone Reading:

Smartphone Millionaire: How to lend money from people, businesses, and real estate from the palm of your hand.
by Ericka S. Williams (Author)

Smart phone millionaires: How to lend money from people, businesses, and real estate from the palm of your hand. View Details

Smartphones (How It Works)
by Lisa J. Amstutz (Author)

Introduces readers to the science that makes smartphones possible. Accessible text, helpful diagrams, and a How Does It Work? feature make this book an exciting introduction to understanding technology. View Details

In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 7
by J-Novel Club

16-year-old Mochizuki Touya has it all. Grand Duke of an upstart nation, inventor of goods ranging from hula hoop to caramelized popcorn, administrator of Babylon, and pilot of the Anti-Phrase Frame Gears. The western nations love him... but darker machinations unfurl in the far east. Yulong, the glorious Empire of Heaven, regards Touya with envious eyes, brazen enough to send assassins into Brunhild! To make matters worse, the mysterious young girl known as Sakura seems to have a connection with these dark assailants. In the background, dark forces gather. Something big approaches. Something... View Details

In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 6
by J-Novel Club

16-year-old Mochizuki Touya continues everyday life in his new world, well aware that it could all come tumbling down at any moment. He's the budding administrator of Babylon, the fledgling grand duke of Brunhild, and now he's a... mecha pilot? Desperate to find a way to halt the incoming Phrase onslaught, Touya makes a mad dash for the Hangar of Babylon, hoping it can give him the edge he needs. What he finds is the Frame Gear, an ancient humanoid fighting machine! Join Touya and his ever-growing band of wives as they tap into their mechanical sides. All systems standby for a tale of swords,... View Details

The Smartphone: Anatomy of an Industry
by Elizabeth Woyke (Author)

We think we know everything about our smartphones. We use them constantly. We depend on them for every conceivable purpose. We are familiar with every inch of their compact frames. But there is more to the smartphone than meets the eye.

How have smartphones shaped the way we socialize and interact? Who tracks our actions, our preferences, our movements as recorded by our smartphones? These are just some of the questions that journalist Elizabeth Woyke answers in this muckraking exposé of the $241 billion industry that produces more than 700 million devices each year.

In the... View Details

52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How to Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices!
by Jonathan McKee (Author)

In 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid, author Jonathan McKee offers just the help you need to have meaningful interaction with your kids instead of always overreacting to their unhealthy consumption of technology and media. In a world where over 80 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds now own a smartphone, parents are searching for ways to pry their kids’ eyes from their devices and engage them in real, face-to-face conversation. Mckee--drawing from his 20-plus years of experience working with teenagers, studying youth culture, and raising three teens of his... View Details

In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 2
by J-Novel Club

Undeterred by his untimely death on Earth, 15-year-old Mochizuki Touya continues to meander around in another world! After a series of misadventures, the young man has assembled a motley crew of adventurers including the timid mage Linze, the feisty brawler Elze, the ever-hungry samurai Yae, and even the young archer Yumina, heir to the Belfast throne. Together with his party (and a divine white tiger), Touya sets his sights on the horizon, heading for the demi-human kingdom of Mismede! But all is not what it seems... the beastman king issues a personal challenge, and a black-scaled dragon... View Details

Smart Phone Smart Photography: Simple techniques for taking incredible pictures with iPhone and Android
by Jo Bradford (Author)

Maximize your potential to get the shots you want with this guide to photography for both Apple and Android phones.

There’s a saying in the photography world that the best camera for the job is the one you have with you when a photo opportunity arises. Thanks to the boom in camera-phone technology, today we’re lucky enough to have a camera to hand to capture all those incredible moments. But are you making the most of that powerful tool in your pocket? Do the photos you have taken tend to be blurry, or look nothing like the picture you remember seeing? If you want to shoot... View Details

Android Phones For Dummies (For Dummies (Lifestyle))
by Dan Gookin (Author)

Your full-color guide to putting your Android to work for you

Your smartphone is essentially your lifeline—so it's no wonder you chose a simple-to-use, fun-to-customize, and easy-to-operate Android. Cutting through intimidating jargon and covering all the features you need to know about your Android phone, this down-to-earth guide arms you with the knowledge to set up and configure your device, get up and running with texting and emailing, access the Internet, navigate with GPS, synch with a PC, and so much more.

Whether you're new to Android phones or have just upgraded to a... View Details

In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 3
by J-Novel Club

Stalwart as ever, 16-year-old Mochizuki Touya heads off to the far eastern land of Eashen with his party in tow. For what purpose? The Matriarch of the Fairy Clan wishes to delve into some ancient ruins, of course! But it's never quite that simple for Touya and his friends, oh no. The party is thrust into the midst of a clash between the warlords Takeda Schingen and Tokugawa Ieyahsu, while a nefarious necromancer makes his move in the shadows...
View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Consequences Of Racism
What does it mean to be judged before you walk through the door? What are the consequences? This week, TED speakers delve into the ways racism impacts our lives, from education, to health, to safety. Guests include poet and writer Clint Smith, writer and activist Miriam Zoila Pérez, educator Dena Simmons, and former prosecutor Adam Foss.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#465 How The Nose Knows
We've all got a nose but how does it work? Why do we like some smells and not others, and why can we all agree that some smells are good and some smells are bad, while others are dependant on personal or cultural preferences? We speak with Asifa Majid, Professor of Language, Communication and Cultural Cognition at Radboud University, about the intersection of culture, language, and smell. And we level up on our olfactory neuroscience with University of Pennsylvania Professor Jay Gottfried.