NYU Steinhardt News

Helen Nissenbaum and Cornell Researcher Awarded NSF Grant to Study Privacy

MCC Professor Helen Nissenbaum and Cornell computer scientist Deborah Estrin have received $300,000 from the National Science Foundation for a project entitled A Research Agenda to Explore Privacy in "Small Data" Applications.

Together they will establish a framework for considering privacy systematically during system design and development, thereby addressing a growing call by policy-makers, public interest advocates, and academic researchers for "privacy by design." 

Nissenbaum and Estrin will base their work on "contextual integrity”—a theory developed by Nissenbaum, whereby a right to privacy is a right to appropriate flow of personal information. They will carefully map information flows in selected instances of "small data” systems: systems that monitor digital traces of one's daily activities such as sending email, buying groceries, or ordering take-out in order to offer insight to users into their habits and health goals. Because certain design patterns can yield functional systems that leak information inappropriately, Nissenbaum and Estrin’s work will provide guidance on how to ensure this does not happen.   

Their research forms part of the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program.

Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, and Computer Science, at New York University, where she is also Director of the Information Law Institute. Her work spans social, ethical, and political dimensions of information technology and digital media.