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NSF Grant to Address Wireless Device Location/Privacy Issues

October 17, 2007

University of Texas at Arlington Assistant Professor of Computer Science & Engineering Nan Zhang and his collaborators at other universities have received a $636,800 National Science Foundation grant to conduct research on problems associated with properly identifying the location of wireless devices. This information is of great importance to emergency personnel responding to 9-1-1 calls sent from cell phones, but it also introduces privacy issues.

Dr. Zhang will be working with Dr. Wei Zhao at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and Dr. Xinwen Fu at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota. At UT Arlington, Dr. Zhang’s portion of the grant is expected to be $212,600 over three years.

Wireless networks bring mobility to users by allowing them to change locations without disrupting connectivity. While this provides opportunities for a wide variety of location-aware services, it also poses privacy concerns to users as to what extent their location can, or should, be identified in different scenarios.

This project will address two issues associated with the problem. One is the accurate determination of a mobile device’s location in situations such as 9-1-1 emergency responses; the other is the effective protection of location information against adversaries that may intrude on mobile device users’ privacy.

The researchers will solve these issues by determining the minimum location information necessary for the wireless network service by analyzing, understanding, structuring and controlling the complex interactions among different entities in the system, including the devices themselves, base stations and potential adversaries across the different application, network and physical layers.