New Science of Security Lablet at ICSI

Serge EgelmanThe International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley, CA is the home to one of six new NSA-funded lablets focused on security and privacy research over the next five years. ICSI's lablet is led by Dr. Serge Egelman, head of the Usable Security and Privacy Research group at ICSI, and includes collaborators at Cornell Tech and UC Berkeley. Other lablets are centered at University of Kansas, Vanderbilt University, Carnegie-Mellon University, University of Illinois-Champaign, and North Carolina State University.

Dr. Egelman said, “We’re really excited that the NSA has committed to funding foundational research into online privacy. Under the auspices of the lablet, my group is performing research to better understand new threats to online privacy, people’s privacy preferences and decision-making, as well as how to design usable and effective privacy controls for emergent technologies, such as IoT devices.”

In the first year, the lablet will focus on four topics: improving privacy controls by applying contextual norms, using formal methods to reason about privacy, governance for Big Data, and how to best apply “Privacy-by-Design” principles. ICSI is working with researchers from Cornell, led by Professor Helen Nissenbaum, on the first two projects related to contextual integrity. “I look forward to joining an outstanding team of privacy researchers,” commented Professor Nissenbaum. “This lablet provides a rare and invaluable opportunity to integrate scientific, empirical, and policy insights with conceptions of privacy that are conceptually rigorous and ethically meaningful,” she added.

The UC Berkeley team, led by Professor Deirdre K. Mulligan, is working on governance for big data and designing for privacy.  Professor Mulligan said, “It’s a pivotal moment for privacy. Policy makers and the public are demanding that privacy be built into technology.  The research of this lablet will help engineers and other privacy professionals do just this, by developing systematic and repeatable engineering approaches to identify and protect privacy that respond to the challenges of big data.”

The lablets are part of NSA’s Science of Security and Privacy (SoS) Initiative. For more information about the SoS Initiative please visit: