New project helps people who are blind safeguard private visual content

Yang Wang
Yang Wang, Associate Professor

People who are blind take pictures and videos and share them with others but face a unique challenge—they cannot independently review their pictures and videos to identify unnecessary private or sensitive content. A set of new algorithmic and interactive techniques being developed by researchers at the iSchool and partner institutions will empower people who are blind to independently safeguard private information in their pictures and videos. Principal investigators on the project include Associate Professor Yang Wang; Danna Gurari, assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Leah Findlater, associate professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering Department at the University of Washington. The collaborative project, "Novel Algorithms and Tools for Empowering People Who Are Blind to Safeguard Private Visual Content," received a four-year, $1,199,993 grant from the National Science Foundation, with the U of I team led by Wang receiving $315,931.

According to the researchers, accidental privacy leaks are common, with more than one out of every 65 images taken by people who are blind showing a diversity of private content, such as prescription pills, home addresses, and tattoos. No solutions currently exist to protect people who are blind from possible identity theft, blackmail, legal liability, and, of course, embarrassment because of these privacy leaks. The goal of the new project is to design novel computer vision algorithms and end-user mechanisms that empower people who are blind to independently safeguard private information in their pictures and videos.

"A person who is blind who takes a photo or wants to reshare a photo can use our system or app to screen the photo for private/sensitive content," explained Wang. "The app will tell the user whether the photo contains any private/sensitive content and what that private content is. The user can then choose to have the app blur the private content in the photo before making the decision to share the edited photo with others or post it on social media."

The resulting app could be adapted to benefit other populations, such as people with low vision, people with cognitive impairments, aging adults, and children.

Wang conducts research focusing on usable privacy and security technologies, social computing, human-computer interaction, and explainable artificial intelligence. He earned his PhD in information and computer science from the University of California, Irvine. 

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

New project to help scientists mitigate risks of environmental pollutants

In addition to killing insects and weeds, pesticides can be toxic to the environment and harmful to human health. A new project led by Associate Professor Dong Wang and Huichun Zhang, Frank H. Neff Professor of Civil Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, will help scientists mitigate the environmental and ecological risks of pollutants such as pesticides and develop remediation strategies for cleaner water, soil, and air. The researchers have received a three-year, $402,773 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for their project, "Machine Learning Modeling for the Reactivity of Organic Contaminants in Engineered and Natural Environments."

Dong Wang

New course focuses on the social history of games and gaming

The iSchool has introduced a new course for undergraduate students who are interested in gaming. Social History of Games & Gaming (IS 199 SHG) is a survey of the history of gaming from the ancient world through the twentieth century and its impact on science, society, and culture. Taught by Teaching Associate Professor David Dubin, the course fulfills a general education requirement for students majoring in information sciences. It is taught in a lecture and discussion format, engaging students with the material and promoting participation.

David Dubin

iSchool researchers discuss misinformation

Several iSchool researchers participated in the recent Misinformation Research Symposium, which was hosted by the Center for Social and Behavioral Science and sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, and National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The goals of the symposium were to help connect misinformation research on campus, foster interdisciplinary teams interested in collaborating on external submissions, and learn more about the needs of existing and emerging research groups on campus. 

Black and Knox pen chapters for new handbook on information policy

A new book on information policy includes chapters by Professor Emeritus Alistair Black and Associate Professor and Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Emily Knox. Research Handbook on Information Policy, edited by Alistair S. Duff, was recently published by Edward Elgar Publishing. The handbook covers topics such as the history and future of information policy, freedom of information and expression, intellectual property, and information inequality.

research handbook on information policy

Disciplining Data: A conversation with a school of information sciences dean

Eunice Santos, professor and dean of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, recently sat down with David B. Wilkins, faculty director of the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, for a conversation about the intersection of information sciences and the law, and how to train students to be effective collaborators and translators between the disciplines.

Eunice Santos