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DARPA Releases Privacy Guidelines For R&D

The military's technology research arm has formally committed to respecting personal privacy as it develops new projects.



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The technology-research arm of the U.S. military has released a new set of privacy principles to guide all of its future R&D projects.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) new principles are aimed at ensuring that any programs that may raise privacy issues are "designed and implemented in a responsible and ethical fashion," according to a White House blog post attributed to Tom Kalil, deputy director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy He acknowledged that DARPA's role "working at the technology and security frontiers" can inherently lead to "tension between the value of having access to information and the importance of respecting personal privacy."

Indeed, privacy has been of great concern to the U.S. government lately, as several technology giants have raised concerns over their practices.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee recently took executives from Google, Apple and Facebook to task over the issue following missteps by all three companies. Specifically, authorities questioned Google's collection of unsecured data from private Wi-Fi networks; Facebook's ever-changing privacy settings; and a leak by AT&T of more than 100,000 email addresses of Apple iPad users.

Hoping to set a standard for privacy, DARPA has resolved to do the following:

-- Consistently examine the impact its R&D has on privacy;

-- Responsibly analyze the privacy dimension of ongoing research endeavors with respect to their ethical, legal and societal implications; and

-- Transparently respond to the findings of its assessments for unclassified work, and ensure independent review of its classified work, in accordance with a commitment to shared responsibility for addressing privacy.

DARPA also plans to work externally with other organizations to follow through on its privacy commitment. The agency said it will work with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct and publish a study about the ethical and societal implications of technological advances.

It also will create both an internal privacy ombudsman to work with the Department of Defense Privacy Office and an independent Privacy Review Panel.

Further, DARPA will work with the National Science Foundation to analyze the ethical, legal and societal implications of R&D involving personally identifiable information, according to the post.