Visible to the public EAGER: Usable Location Privacy in Geo-Social NetworksConflict Detection Enabled

Project Details

Performance Period

Sep 15, 2009 - Aug 31, 2012


University of California-Irvine

Award Number

Outcomes Report URL

This project is focused on a potentially transformational research study involving the simultaneous investigation of usability and security/privacy technologies for location-based geo-social applications, with the objective of studying the usability, feasibility, and scalability of privacy-preserving and secure location-aware geo-social networking platforms for mobile devices. The approach is based on a belief that usability and security/privacy are addressed properly and most effectively from the start. In particular, the project will study the usability of privacy-agile secure location-based communication and associated supporting protocols that scale to large numbers of users and accommodate various privacy levels suitable for different application domains. By studying the usability of location-aware protocols, the investigators propose methods that provide seamless connectivity and functionality over different networking technologies, without sacrificing the user experience. The investigators also plan to address other security issues in privacy-preserving operation, including authentication, access control and accountability. This project envisions a wide range of future applications with three unifying factors: (1) a geo-social undertone, i.e., applications that combine social groups and locality, (2) lack of, or desire to avoid using, fixed infrastructure facilities, and (3) need for both security and privacy. Although progress is starting on technologies for supporting such applications, there has been precious little work done on the study of usability factors with respect to the privacy and security users expect with their small-device location-based applications. The proposed project therefore has an ambitious goal: to study the usability of privacy-preserving geo-social technologies, including the user models, perceptions, interfaces, and feasible communication/computation technologies for supporting futuristic geo-social applications on portable mobile devices in the aforementioned setting. Methods employed may include interviews, focus groups, and cognitive walkthroughs. One key feature of the approach is to study methods that shield location from identity, thereby allowing for location-based services and geo-social applications while also protecting user privacy, and, most importantly, to do so in a way that is most usable and effective from the user?s point of view.

Technologies using location and small devices are growing at a rapid rate, while techniques considering security and location and identity privacy are only now being addressed. Thus, usable systems that protect location-sensitive privacy concerns could have a major impact on society. The tools developed in this project will enable important and economically beneficial technologies to be developed for location-aware geo-social networks preserving privacy rights for the individuals using such services. In addition, a vital part of this project involves graduate-student participation in research. Thus, this project has the potential of bringing expanded research opportunities for developing the next generation of information technology researchers. Likewise, it also includes an important educational component.