Special Panel: Data Privacy for Pervasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments


  • Anthony E Kelly

    Senior Advisor, Directorate of Education and Human Resources
    US National Science Foundation

  • Simson Garfinkel

    Chief, Center for Disclosure Avoidance Research
    US Census Bureau


As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, vast amounts of information on individuals and groups are being collected, analyzed, and repurposed. While much of this information can be used in socially beneficial ways, the existence of this information increases privacy risk, and can place our sense of privacy in jeopardy [1]. A predicted explosion in data collection as part of the adoption of Internet of Things devices and sensors is likely to bring these concerns into full public view [2].

Many people have legitimate concerns about who has access to information, and how it may be used in ways that are potentially or actually unjust or unfair [3]. These concerns arise in an era of "Big Data," whose contours and implications for society are only slowly being appreciated [4].

While the study of privacy has complex cultural and social aspects, there is a growing agreement that we must better understand the influence of the context in which data collection, analysis, use, retention and repurposing occurs in order to codify implications for privacy and fairness. In the current case, the context of pervasive technologies for assistive environments is sufficiently mature that it can uniquely inform conversations about privacy that involve vulnerable populations.


In this panel, we would like to engage researchers and practitioners in the PETRA community (and by extension the related health and learning communities) in exploring how the US National Privacy Research Strategy (NPRS) [5] can inform, and be informed by, emerging research and technical development in pervasive assistive technologies.

List of Topics

We wish to explore one of the themes for this meeting (Data Privacy and Remote Health Monitoring) by examining the following research topics described in the NPRS, including how to:

  • Foster multidisciplinary approach to privacy research and solutions
  • Understand and measure privacy desires and impacts
  • Develop system design methods that incorporate privacy desires, requirements, and controls
  • Increase transparency of data collection, sharing, use, and retention
  • Assure that information flows and use are consistent with privacy rules
  • Develop approaches for remediation and recovery
  • Reduce privacy risks of analytical algorithms

In this panel, we hope to begin a continuing conversation that will strengthen linkages between the PETRA researchers, globally, and those who are exploring issues related to big data and privacy. Today, there are many NSF-supported PIs working in Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace [6], Smart and Connected Communities [7], Smart and Connected Health [8], BIGDATA [9], and related initiatives, who are likely to contribute to and benefit from a deeper, ongoing engagement with the PETRA communities.

We also wish to learn how research questions about privacy arise, and are framed, within the European context. Given the nature of scientific research, US understanding of privacy norms and regulations will help inform global scientific collaborations, and impact

  1. "Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy, The White House, February 2012 https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/privacy-final.pdf
  2. http://wfiot2016.ieee-wf-iot.org/
  3. "Big Data: A Report on Algorithmic Systems, Opportunity, and Civil Rights, The White House, May 2016 https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/2016_0504_data_discrimination.pdf
  4. "Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values," The White House, May 2014 http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/big_data_privacy_report_may_1_2014.pdf
  5. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/nprs_nstc_review_final.pdf
  6. https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504709
  7. https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16610/nsf16610.htm
  8. https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504739
  9. https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504767