Navigating Computer Science Research Through Waves of Privacy Concerns: Discussions among Computer Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University
Computer Science research and practice are raising growing privacy concerns among the public and government. Computer technology’s increasing ability to capture, organize, interpret and share data about individuals raises questions about what privacy practices computer science researchers should adopt, if any. These issues are already very real in ongoing research projects in the School of Computer Science (SCS) at Carnegie Mellon University, from mining databases of individual transactions, to studying how people use the web, to mounting cameras in lounges, to building hallway robots that capture data about passers by, to building intelligent workstation assistants that learn user habits. This paper introduces the nature of privacy concerns often related to computer science research, explains potential benefits and risks (especially of abuse and misuse) and examines traditional and innovative methods for providing privacy assurances in research. Examples are provided from projects at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science.