Boosting data privacy across Europe
Online personal data breaches regularly make headlines. Now, an EU-funded project is looking to boost data privacy by improving understanding of web user behaviour.
© Andrey Popov #222401798, 2019 source: stock.adobe.com
As we surf the internet, we leave a trail of data behind, including on financial transactions, healthcare records, social media activity, as well as our geolocation and web surfing tendencies. This data can be used to our benefit, such as suggesting nearby places of interest or to highlight products that might interest us.
But as concerns about data misuse grow, a key challenge is finding the right balance between using personal data to enhance a users experience and protecting their privacy.
The EU-funded PRIVACY&US project attempts to tackle this issue by advancing privacy and user behaviour research. Its results are expected to be used by data protection authorities and companies across Europe.
Privacy is not simply a matter of concealing information and developing technologies to minimise the misuse of information, it is also a choice the user makes and for which the user needs to have the necessary information, says project coordinator Leonardo Martucci, associate professor at Karlstad University in Sweden.
It is of utmost importance to protect people from adverse uses of their data while allowing them to enjoy the benefits the use of their data can provide.
Online transparency and consent
The project has hired 13 early-stage researchers to explore different facets of data privacy from a multidisciplinary approach that includes computer science, psychology, sociology, behavioural economics and law. Their focus is on current data privacy and usability challenges, including transparency and consent in line with the EUs General Data Protection Regulation that will enter into force in May 2018.
One researcher is investigating how humans make decisions online and is engineering a model that simulates users privacy trade-off reasoning or the data that the user is prepared to reveal in return for use of a service like free email.
Other researchers are focusing on understanding data privacy threats in smart technology including phones and tablets, smart environments, and the Internet of Things. They are developing ways to build data-processing technology that is adaptive and transparent to each users personal privacy preferences.
Another researcher is investigating how to securely and efficiently store and design genomic data used in applications activated with fingerprints and facial recognition technology, for example without compromising the users privacy.
Meanwhile, another project is exploring ways to help users understand the privacy implications of their actions on the web so that they can make informed decisions.
Other elements being researched under PRIVACY&US include better understanding users decision-making on healthcare data disclosure, improving privacy and security at the point of sale in commercial transactions, legal strategies to solve shortcomings related to informed consent and user acceptance of secure cloud computing technologies.
PRIVACY&US is a training network funded that receives funding through the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme. Each researcher is supported by a team of experts from academia, industry and the public sector.