Personal Privacy Assistant uses AI to learn users’ app preferences

If you’ve been really paying attention to the world of mobile devices over the past decade, you may possibly have noticed that users have a habit of downloading apps for their phones. Apps are all well and great but they can also have a nasty habit of gathering data about their users and feeding it back to developers.

Fortunately, smartphone platform makers like Apple and Google have responded by giving users the ability to limit individual privacy settings within apps — deciding whether they want to hand over access to contact, location data, sensor information, camera access, and more. Increasingly, these can be toggled individually in a way that restores sovereignty to the user over their system.

Good, right? Well, kind of.

“The number of settings that we have to control has truly become overwhelming and unrealistic,” Norman Sadeh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, told Digital Trends. “A typical user will have 50 or more apps on his or her cellphone. Conservatively these apps may have controls for three different permissions. If you have to decide which of these permissions you’re willing to grant, that means that the average user has to configure 150 different permissions. Very, very few people are willing to do that.”

Along with colleagues, Sadeh is working on a solution in the form of the so-called Personal Privacy Assistant Project — an app designed to make privacy decisions more manageable.

“Different users will be happy with different permissions, but previous research has shown that you can predict an individual’s preferences by asking them a small number of questions,” he said. “Using AI and machine learning technology, we’ve been able to build a privacy assistant able to look at the apps you’ve got on your cellphone, ask a few questions, and make recommendations about how you may want to configure your settings.”

In a pilot study, users accepted almost 80 percent of the recommendations made by the privacy assistant — making this a potentially transformative way to deal with an important issue, without surrendering all of your free time to reading pages of terms and conditions.

An Android version of Personal Privacy Assistant is planned for release over the next few weeks, designed for rooted (that’s “jailbreaking” for the iOS community) users. Sadeh also said he hopes some of the big players in the mobile space may consider incorporated similar tools in future releases.

As the world moves toward body data-tracking wearable devices and smart homes, this topic will only become more critical.


Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.

Google denies claim that it’s tracking internet users when incognito mode is on

Google is denying claims leveled against it by rival privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo. The rival alleged that even when incognito mode is on, Google is tracking users in order to deliver personalized search results.

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.