Computer Science Department
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


On the Semantics of Purpose Requirements
in Privacy Policies

Michael Carl Tschantz, Anupam Datta, Jeannette M. Wing

February 2011


Keywords: Privacy, Formal Methods

Privacy policies often place requirements on the purposes for which a governed entity may use personal information. For example, regulations, such as HIPAA, require that hospital employees use medical information for only certain purposes, such as treatment. Thus, using formal or automated methods for enforcing privacy policies requires a semantics of purpose requirements to determine whether an action is for a purpose or not. We provide such a semantics using a formalism based on planning. We model planning using a modified version of Markov Decision Processes, which exclude redundant actions for a formal definition of redundant. We use the model to formalize when a sequence of actions is only for or not for a purpose. This semantics enables us to provide an algorithm for automating auditing, and to describe formally and compare rigorously previous enforcement methods.

34 pages

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