Boosting user privacy online

By creating an innovative, open-source privacy enforcement platform, the EU-funded project OPERANDO aims to give end-users complete control over their own personal data, allowing them to choose what is available to whom, where and when.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 10 January 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Information societyInformation technology  |  Internet
Research policyHorizon 2020
Security
Success storiesInformation society  |  Security
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Germany  |  Greece  |  Israel  |  Italy  |  Spain  |  United Kingdom
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Boosting user privacy online

Picture with words personal data
© photon_photo - fotolia.com

Updated on 10 January 2019

User privacy online is a minefield. While the EU has advanced data protection and online privacy rules, many people do not yet understand how to use them to improve their online privacy.

Today, many internet users are still unaware that their data is often passed on by one online service provider to another. This can make them less willing to use online services, whilst also preventing them from securing any monetary value from their data – currently the service provider receives any profit from data sharing.

Meanwhile, service providers must comply with national and European privacy standards and regulations while maintaining a trustworthy image for their users.

To overcome these challenges, the EU-funded project OPERANDO has developed a platform that makes protecting private data much easier.

‘Users need to understand and control how their personal data is being used. There is no existing one-stop solution available on the market to solve this. That is what we are changing,’ says Reynold Greenlaw, project management lead at Oxford Computer Consultants and OPERANDO project coordinator.

Better data control

In an effort to meet both user and service provider needs, OPERANDO researchers have built a user-friendly dashboard called PlusPrivacy. This free privacy management service can be downloaded on to any device and is already available to the public via https://plusprivacy.com.

It does not hold any user data except the account password, email address and privacy preferences.

PlusPrivacy users can choose settings for all their social networks from a single dashboard. For example, if a person does not want to reveal their date of birth on social media, PlusPrivacy will apply that rule to all their accounts. It also provides a ‘single-click privacy’ button that enables users to automatically set their privacy settings to the highest levels across all their social media accounts.

Another feature is a unified extensions and apps dashboard. This allows users to easily review how each of their Chrome browser extensions and web apps are connected to their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. By means of a single click button, a user can disable or uninstall any extensions or apps that infringe on their privacy, without having to explore the account settings in each platform individually.

PlusPrivacy also features an alias email identity service for people who prefer not to reveal their real email address. The user can create up to 20 alternative email identities and delete them accordingly. Emails sent to alternative email addresses are automatically forwarded to a normal email address, while any replies sent by the user go to the original sender without disclosing the user’s real email address.

The service can also block adverts and trackers, unless they are explicitly accepted by the user. In future, it plans to create a ‘privacy-for-benefit’ service which would give consumers the option to consent to trade their private data for economic benefit from an online service.

Local authority benefits

Furthermore, OPERANDO researchers have built a separate privacy enforcement platform (G2C) tailored to the needs of local authorities. This has already been tested for its ability to successfully handle personal data by a UK volunteer-based social service which supports vulnerable adults, by an Italian hospital treating patients with specific dietary needs, and by a service for adults being treated for gambling additions called BetStop. The team has also trialled G2C in a fictional patient database with patients who are registered for fictional surgery.

The platform allows the user to set his/her own user privacy policy and determine how their personal data is shared and used with service providers. The provider also sets a privacy policy. The system logs all activity to keep the user informed about the use of their personal data and to create a trail that can be audited by a regulator.

‘The platform gives citizens a greater sense of security when passing their data to a local authority. For the local authority, OPERANDO offers a cost-effective way of managing data-protection issues and encourages citizens to supply correct and up-to-date data,’ Greenlaw concludes.

Project details

  • Project acronym: OPERANDO
  • Participants: UK (Coordinator), Israel, Italy, Germany, Romania, Spain, Greece
  • Project Reference N° 653704
  • Total cost: € 4 455 811
  • EU contribution: € 3 746 037
  • Duration: May 2015 to April 2018

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