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    Wired: A New Programming Language With Built-In Privacy Protocols

    Wired reports on a new programming language, Jeeves, created by MIT PhD student Jean Yang. Jeeves is a privacy-centric language, Wired reports.

    Any application that stores personal data such as photos is vulnerable to bugs that accidentally expose private information. Human error is inevitable. But an MIT PhD student named Jean Yang wants to make these coding mistakes as rare as possible with new privacy-centric programming language called Jeeves.

    Today, software programmers typically create dedicated privacy settings for each new feature they add to an application. But with Jeeves — named after the fictional valet in a series of short stories by P. G. Wodehouse — coders could readily create privacy settings for an entire application, a master list that could then flow to each new application feature. This could help prevent situations like the one that snagged Mark Zuckerberg [whose private Facebook photos were revealed because of a programming bug in 2011.] […]

    Jeeves would help programmers avoid such a mistake by making privacy settings an inherent part of each piece of content. “In a Jeeves system, assuming the programmer sets things up right, private data such as photos would be attached to policies until the moment they are released,” she says. “This guarantees that unauthorized viewers may not view a photo no matter what series of actions they took to arrive at a photo.”

    Jeeves, when finished, could be a boon to smaller companies that want to safely handle private information. Facebook has the infrastructure to detect, fix, and prevent problems like this quickly, but companies with fewer resources and fewer users might take longer to spot and fix this type of bug. Yang also says Jeeves could be useful for companies that want to make data available to third-party developers. “If all of the code lived in a Jeeves world, then we can create data, attach policies to it, and send it off to third party apps knowing that the policies will be enforced,” she says.

    In other words, if a programmers sets things up right in the beginning, Jeeves should manage the flow of privacy settings to all new features without the need to do anything special. […]

    Today, Jeeves can be embedded within the existing programming languages Python and Scala. But Yang says it’s still just a research language not quite ready for real-world coding. For one thing, it’s far too slow for a company like Facebook to use.

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