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USDOT to Host Data Protection Webinar on January 17

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by Aaron Mack in Uncategorized
December 21, 2017

On January 17 at 1:00 pm Eastern, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) will host a public webinar to introduce the Transportation Data Privacy Protection Tool.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) safety and mobility applications—say, traveler information systems—rely on and generate data about system users. If put in the wrong hands, the very data that makes ITS an invaluable tool could be used to identify or track people based on their travel patterns. This makes data security of the utmost importance for ITS practitioners.

“Cleaning the data”—e.g., removing names, addresses, etc.—seems like a logical method of protection. Yet it doesn’t stop people from being identified in an indirect way, by analyzing the places they go and the routes they take on a regular basis.

All this privacy risk has more downsides than just its danger to citizens. If you’re a state or local agency, you might be a little hesitant to share your traffic data knowing it could put users at risk. This is unfortunate, because the data generated by ITS applications is quite useful for studying transportation problems. Imagine a densely populated metropolis like New York being able to share its data with other cities–for example, about the characteristics of its safest intersections. “Build it this way, and accidents could go down by 10% or more!”

So, we need a way to de-identify transportation user data to protect citizens and promote a shared-use environment. And that seems to be what the USDOT has achieved with the Transportation Data Privacy Protection Tool. Using a combination of map data and information theory, the agency says its tool can hide sensitive location and route information without jeopardizing data quality at the expense of its usefulness to researchers.

The January 17 webinar will begin with a discussion of data privacy, and will move along to educate attendees about the new method of data protection. The webinar will be hosted by Ariel Gold, USDOT’s Data Program Manager, and Jason M. Carter, Ph.D., from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ITS programmers at the state and local level are encouraged to attend, as are transportation agency CIOs, and those generally interested in deploying ITS.

Registration for the webinar is still open, and can be accessed here.

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