Can Personal Privacy Coexist with National Security?

The urgent business of protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats will almost certainly follow a different course under the Obama administration. In particular, the security of electronic information supporting our most critical systems – for instance, financial, medical and civil infrastructure data – is likely to be defined by a stronger effort to reconcile the competing needs of public security, personal privacy and utility.

At Berkeley Engineering, we are helping to resolve this challenge through our work with TRUST, the Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technologies. TRUST is an NSF-funded Science and Technology Center, headquartered here at Berkeley under my directorship. We work with more than 100 researchers at seven additional U.S. universities to develop trustworthy information systems for the nation’s critical infrastructure.

I recently spoke with Tom Temin of Federal News Radio about TRUST and the approach we are taking to balancing the concerns of security vs. privacy, particularly as they bear on personal health records. On the one hand, the health care industry has legitimate needs to optimize efficient treatment protocols that require disclosure of information to many care providers and to monitor large patient populations to study the effectiveness of therapies. On the other hand, patients deserve the right to control the disclosure of information about their medical condition.

TRUST researchers are working on algorithms and languages that enable the verifiable protection of patient identities. Yet, other TRUST tools will give patients the power to customize their records so that their health histories are available to their doctors, say, but not their employers.

Elsewhere here in the College, we continue to work on innovative projects that deliver cleaner energy and inform public decision-making about global climate change. All three of this month’s Innovations stories deal with this topic. I encourage you to read them and tell us what you think!

Finally, I invite you to click on CITRIS Headquarters Celebration for reports on our February 27 open house marking the completion of Sutardja Dai Hall, the new home of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley. Nearly 1,000 guests attended the festivities. Whether or not you were able to join us, I know you will enjoy seeing the coverage.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean, College of Engineering
Roy W. Carlson Professor of EECS, BioE & ME
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry

Upcoming Events

April 18: Cal Day: The College of Engineering presents Professor Alexandre Bayen speaking on Mobile Millennium: The Cyberphysical System that Keeps Traffic Moving

View from the Top Lecture Series
View from the Top brings distinguished leaders in technology and industry to the College of Engineering. Free admission, refreshments provided.

March 19: T. Gary Rogers, Chairman of the Board, Levi Strauss & Co.

April 7: Richard Kerris, Chief Technology Officer, Lucasfilm

April 21: Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board, Intel

Topics: Research