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User-Centric Privacy Controls for Smart Home Devices

Northern Virginia Node

Principal Investigator: 
Vivian Motti, assistant professor, information sciences and technology, George Mason University.

Co-Principal Investigator: 
Carol Fung, associate professor, engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University

Project Description: 
Smart home technologies include an ecosystem of devices aimed to provide convenient services for end users. Smart home devices (SHDs) vary on their form factor and purposes, serving as personal assistants for communication, entertainment, lighting, surveillance, among other services. SHDs are well-suited to automate services and manual activities, however due to their continued data collection, access to personal information from end users, and communication with third-party services through the web, these devices also threaten users’ privacy. Privacy concerns for smart homes are well-acknowledged in the scientific literature and popular media, however addressing privacy risks for SHDs remains an open challenge. To advance the research and development of user-centric controls for smart home devices, this project employs user-centric design. The project aims to systematically characterize privacy concerns from end users’ perspectives, formalizing privacy risks in a threat model for smart home devices. Also, the research team will define, develop and evaluate a privacy-enhancing framework for smart homes. The project contributions are three-fold: (i) a threat model of privacy risks for smart home devices; (ii) graphic user interfaces for privacy controls; and (iii) a catalog of privacy-preserving policies and design patterns. The project is in line with CCI goals investigating the impact of human behavior on cybersecurity focusing on privacy for smart home devices.