Principal Investigator(s): 
Robin Sommer, Gerald Friedland
GeoTube image
Image courtesy of Mitch Blunt

Researchers are exposing the ways in which it is possible to aggregate public and seemingly innocuous information from different media and Web sites to attack the privacy of users. The project seeks to help users, particularly younger ones, understand the privacy implications of the information they share publicly on the Internet and to help them understand what control they can exercise over it.

Users who post photos, videos, and text to public Web sites often do not realize that personal information from one site can be correlated to information on another site, and that chains of inference can tell much more about them than they are aware of revealing. This is particularly a concern as multimedia content revieval becomes more sophisticated. Multimedia content retrieval allows users to find videos, photos, and other content on the Internet by searching a variety of indicators such as the text in its tags, sounds in its audio tracks, visual cues, and automatic analysis of its content.

Researchers are investigating what these inference chains can show and how users can protect their privacy. They are also investigating the trade-off between the benefits of sharing information online and the risks of doing so.

The project is also using this information to build educational tools designed to help high school students understand the privacy implications of what they do on the Internet. Working with high school teachers and other educators, researchers are designing plug-ins and applications that provide clear visuals showing, for example, the number of friends that will see a post on Facebook. Much of this work is in collaboration with the Berkeley Foundation for Opportunities in Information Technology.

The project is joint between ICSI's Networking and Speech Groups and takes advantage of ICSI's expertise in network security and multimedia analysis.

Funding provided by NSF grant 1065240, TC: Medium: Understanding and Managing the Impact of Global Inference on Online Privacy.