Cyber Defense

DARPA hires SRI to spearhead data privacy program

In an effort to solve the seemingly paradoxical problem of protecting information while sharing it, military searchers have awarded a contract to SRI International to find a better way to keep proprietary and personal information under wraps.

The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, on behalf of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, awarded SRI the $8.5 million contract for the Brandeis program, Military & Aerospace Electronics reported.

DARPA announced the program with a solicitation in March, noting that while databases that amass huge reserves of personal information can have benefits (exposing terrorist plots, fighting epidemics), it also poses risks—just ask the 22 million people whose data was taken in the hack of the Office of Personnel Management.

The agency wants to develop new technologies capable of protecting information while still being able to share it—a tall order that SRI will now address.

The program is named for former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who, 26 years before arriving at the court, co-wrote a seminal 1890 paper titled, “The Right to Privacy,” which is considered the first scholarly argument in favor of a legal right to privacy. Brandies as his co-author, Samuel Warren, called privacy the foundation of individual freedom and lamented that: “Numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’”

Needless to say, the whispers and shouts have only grown in the years since, particularly since the birth of the Internet. And shared proprietary information is a cornerstone of the military’s current and future battlefield networks. The ability to share that information while keeping its private and in the appropriate hands is would seem to be essential to operations.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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