Privacy Engineers Hold the Key

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 15, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Privacy Engineers Hold the Key


Lorrie Faith Cranor is an associate professor of computer science and of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She serves as the director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory and co-director of CMU's new master of science program in information technology-privacy engineering, which begins next fall.

Cranor spoke to the Trib about the new program -- the first of its kind in the world -- which is intended for students seeking to play a significant role in building privacy into future products, services and processes.

Q: How did this program originate?

A: There are a group of faculty members at Carnegie Mellon who have been doing research in online privacy, and we've offered a number of courses related to privacy over the years (but) we haven't actually had a degree in privacy. And increasingly we've been hearing from companies who approach us and say they're trying to hire a privacy engineer and ask if we have any graduating students who are qualified. We decided we really needed to start a master's degree program focused on privacy engineering. There are no other privacy engineering degrees in existence anywhere.

Q: And what exactly is privacy engineering? Can you put that in layman's terms?

A: Take a social networking company, for example, that is building new tools that help people share their photos and their thoughts with friends. But it raises a lot of privacy issues. The simple privacy solution is to turn off a lot of sharing and don't let people do the fun things. But that is not what you want to do. You want to find solutions that give people the ability to control who can see their posts and who can't and allow them to control their own privacy but still get to do the things for the reasons why they signed up for the social network.

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