HTTPA: New tech transforms transparency into privacy

Preserving privacy by keeping information secret isn't working. Consumers give away precious data for online baubles. Data breaches, large and small, spill data all over the Web. Marketers indiscriminiately gather details about the online lives of people in their target markets.

Does that mean we should be reading the last rites over privacy? Not necessarily, say two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who are working on a new Internet protocol that could preserve privacy by making information less private.

The researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab -- graduate student Oshani Seneviratne and principal research scientist Lalana Kagal -- call the protocol HTTPA -- HTTP with Accountability. The protocol doesn't attempt to shroud data in secrecy. Rather, it allows the owner of the data to attach conditions for its use. It also allows usage of the data to be audited so its owner can determine if its conditions are being followed.

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