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Digital Privacy Through Self-Destructing Data

by on February 17, 2010

Great post on the Wikinomics Blog about the nature of privacy in the information age.  The article highlights work of various researchers that are tackling this problem, and how the “never-forgetting-web” can be taught to forget some items (in particular personal emails).

One of the researchers mentioned in the article is a doctoral student at the University of Washington.  Roxana Geambasu, is working on a concept, titled Vanish, which attaches a time-code to a message that scrambles the message after a prescribed period of time.  This code works across platforms, so that even the email client servers would not be able to call the message after it has “vanished.”

For those of you interested in privacy and/or looking to do an interview for the third paper this might be a great opportunity to get to meet and talk to another researcher on campus.

UW article about Vanish

Vanish Home Page

Roxana Geambasu’s Home Page


From → Good to Know

  1. Sanjeevi Sturges permalink

    Thanks for all these great links.

    During a project last quarter, my group did some digging into people’s willingness to give up their privacy. We found that if the tools/features/rewards were good enough, most people didn’t mind, although a few people would choose to opt out.

    It’s interesting in retrospect because I can tell that we were coming from an ‘all or nothing’ perspective. Probably because so much technology has been exactly that – you can either opt in (e.g. send an email that will be stored) or opt out (e.g. not send an email). Roxana Geambasu’s project has some very comforting implications that we might be able to choose somewhere between all and nothing again.


  2. You are welcome, it really seemed like some interesting work worth sharing with our cohort especially in regard to how we will potentially have careers that call for us to develop or enforce organizational policy in regard to communications.

    I would be interested to hear more about the incentives that drove behavior toward accepting less privacy. I had always thought that people were strongly attached to their own personal idea of privacy, and that getting them to change that behavior would be fairly difficult. I think it also begs the question into the nature of privacy, which I am sure we will be covering in much greater depth next year in IMT550.


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