Research projects to build trust, privacy and security in use of personal data and digital technologies

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Recent media reports about the use and exploitation of personal data have increased public awareness of the benefits and drawbacks of the digital age.

This area has been a research priority for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is now part of the newly formed UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In 2017 EPSRC called on researchers to submit proposals for projects that would further the understanding of Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security (TIPS) issues in the Digital Economy.

The aspiration was to support interdisciplinary research, across the spectrum of technological, economic, cultural, social, legal, ethical, design, behavioural and political disciplines, to engage with those who use research outputs, from industry to charities to communities.

A total of eleven projects have been successful and collectively will receive £11 million over the next three years.

The projects address a number of areas that present challenges for those using data and those giving others access to their data.

For instance, researchers from the Defence Against Dark Artefacts (DADA) project at the University of Nottingham will explore the challenge of the likely future where connections are required between cloud-based services and the Internet of Things (IoT) in workplaces and the home. How can you use data services in a secure way if you have a fridge that talks about you?

The Dynamic, Real time, On-demand Personalisation for Scaling (DROPS) project is a collaboration between academics at the universities of Warwick, Surrey, and the West of England. It will examine the privacy, trust and identity issues arising from the development of personalised e-books for children's reading. Their focus on children's reading is motivated by evidence that shows that despite the value of personalised e-books for learning and reading enjoyment, there is a lack of research that engages with the range of privacy issues that these technologies introduce.

DROPS aims to develop a ThingsSpace that manages the computational process of personalising technology, such as e-books, in such a way that a user's personal data is protected. ThingsSpace will use an existing personal data store, the Hub of All Things (HAT), to store personal data subsequently used by the e-book's algorithm to adapt to the child's pedagogical needs.

At Northumbria University the INTUIT: Interaction Design for Trusted Sharing of Personal Health Data to Live Well with HIV project will look to identify and address fundamental TIPS challenges faced by those managing stigmatised long-term conditions such as HIV in managing their health and interacting with care services, peer support networks, and private organisations.

They will develop new tools to provide people with opportunity and choice for managing the trusted sharing of their self-generated data with others.

The TIPS 2.0 call was launched by the Research Councils Digital Economy Theme. Digital Economy Theme Lead Dr John Baird said: The rapid digital technological changes that have already happened are already having profound effects on the way people live, individually and collectively.

The advances in the interconnectedness of devices, data and people present both opportunities and challenges. Recent news items around how personal data can be obtained and used highlights the need for research that can understand the complexities socio-technical relationships while also safeguarding the integrity and usefulness of data.

Summaries of the grants:

Dynamic, Real time, On-demand Personalisation for Scaling (DROPS) - EP/R033838/1, EP/R033374/1 and EP/R033560/1

Led by: Professor Irene Ng, University of Warwick; Professor Glenn Parry, University of the West of England; and Professor Roger Maull, University of Surrey

DROPS will examine the privacy, trust and identity issues that arise from the development of personalised e-books for children's reading. The project aims to develop a ThingsSpace platform in such a way that a user's personal data is protect; ThingsSpace will use an existing personal data store, the Hub of All Things, to store personal data. The researchers will use this as a springboard to document and evaluate issues resulting from its design and use, and inform the development of different economic and business models.

Defence Against Dark Artefacts (DADA) - EP/R03351X/1

Led by: Professor Derek McAuley, University of Nottingham

The project aims to address the challenges resulting from the current, widely-adopted approach in which cloud services underpin IoT devices, in the context of the home where network infrastructure protection is minimal and little or no isolation is provided between attached devices and the data traffic they carry. The research is rooted in pragmatism, acknowledging that current IoT cyber security solutions will not deal with legacy issues and will not achieve 100 per cent adoption, and that the public will never become network security experts.

INTUIT: Interaction Design for Trusted Sharing of Personal Health Data to Live Well with HIV - EP/R033900/1

Led by: Dr Abigail Durrant, Northumbria University

The project will develop new tools providing people who are managing stigmatised long-term conditions such as HIV with the opportunity and choice for managing the trusted sharing of their self-generated data with others. Bringing together experts in the HIV sector, public health, human computer interaction design, health psychology, health informatics and applied ethics, it aims to develop tools that will allow individuals to use personal data to self-manage their condition; live and age well with HIV; understand what it means to share these data with others such as healthcare providers and private organisations; and identify ethical issues associated with TIPS for managing stigma and wellbeing.

Cumulative Revelations of Personal Data - EP/R033889/1, EP/R033870/1, EP/R033854/1 and EP/R033897/1

Led by: Professor Wendy Moncur, University of Dundee; Dr Leif Azzopardi, University of Strathclyde; Dr Jo Briggs, Northumbria University; and Professor Burkhard Schafer, University of Edinburgh

Small, apparently innocuous pieces of personal information ranging from personal and work habits to emotions and social influence can pose risks to personal reputation and employers' operation security when shared intentionally by individuals or others, or through common cross-authentication practices. Working alongside the Royal Bank of Scotland and UK security agencies, the project will develop a prototype software tool to map out a portrait of a user's digital footprint, reflecting it back to them to allow them to understand the cumulative nature of their personal data and the attendant vulnerabilities and risks.

ReEnTrust: Rebuilding and Enhancing Trust in Algorithms - EP/R033633/1

Led by: Professor Marina Jirotka, University of Oxford

Tensions driven by the influence of AI algorithms on online platforms are resulting in a breakdown of trust among users who do not know when to trust the outcomes of algorithmic processes and, consequently, the platforms which use them. The project aims to develop the first AI-supported mediation and conflict resolution techniques which will be used in an experimental online tool allowing users to evaluate and critique algorithms; engage in dialogue and collective reflection; and jointly agree on how to 'fix' the algorithms in question to rebuild trust.

PACE: Privacy-Aware Cloud Ecosystems - EP/R033439/1 and EP/R033293/1

Led by: Professor Omer Rana, Cardiff University and Dr Raj Ranjan, Newcastle University

Many people using cloud computing services often entrust their data and identity without realising that service providers may share the data with other services, such as analytics and advertisers. This is likely to be greatly exacerbated by the expansion of internet-connected devices. This interdisciplinary project aims to address challenges facing the capacity of users to give informed consent to the use, sharing and re-purposing of data through a mobile software 'container' that will securely log all access instances, thereby improving transparency, creating an audit trail of providers and facilitating greater trust between users and service providers. The project, involving Cardiff University, Newcastle University and UCL, will develop novel computational methods to better ensure that cloud providers can enhance data privacy and will provide the basis for conforming to recently-introduced General Data Protection Regulation requirements.

People Powered Algorithms for Desirable Social Outcomes - EP/R033382/1

Led by: Dr Duncan Hodges, Cranfield University

Without confidence in the legitimacy and credibility of algorithms used in interactions between government and citizens, trust between the two can be dramatically reduced. The project will focus on three key public policy areas where algorithmic decision-making is employed - refugee resettlement, welfare and healthcare provision - to examine how the re-designing of the system interactions and communication of political and economic logic will enhance the security and wellbeing of individuals, protect the security of the state and increase confidence in digital service design.

FinTrust: Trust Engineering for the Financial Industry - EP/R033595/1

Led by: Professor Aad van Moorsel, Newcastle University

The FinTrust project will explore trust in banks and financial services, a decade after the financial crises of 2008. Modern-day financial services increasingly rely on 'robo-advice', in which smart algorithms will make automated decisions about mortgages and other financial matters in seconds. Do customers trust such services, and how could we enhance consumer trust? Is there any risk of bias against groups of people if computers make the decisions? Could this lead to new forms of financial distress and financial exclusion of people? The project will develop a set of design tools to enhance consumer trust in financial services. It also aims to advise regulators on the social and technical implications of automation in financial services. FinTrust is a collaboration between Newcastle University and Atom Bank, the challenger bank that has its base in the North-East of England.

Realising Accountable Intelligent Systems (RAInS) - EP/R033846/1, EP/R033501/1 and EP/R03379X/1

Led by: Professor Peter Edwards, University of Aberdeen; Professor Rebecca Williams, University of Oxford and Dr Jat Singh, University of Cambridge

AI systems technologies such as those used in autonomous vehicles and smart home appliances are becoming ever more ubiquitous, but questions remain unanswered as to how systems and their developers can be held to account if they make biased or unfair decisions, or make mistakes. Working with stakeholders ranging from members of the public to the legal profession and technology companies, the project will explore what it means to realise future AI systems that are transparent and accountable. It then aims to develop prototype solutions which will allow developers to provide secure, tamper-proof records of intelligent systems' characteristics and behaviours. These records can be shared with the relevant authorities and further analysed in the event of incidents or complaints.

PRIvacy-aware personal data management and Value Enhancement for Leisure Travellers (PriVELT) - EP/R033749/1, EP/R033196/1 and EP/R033609/1

Led by: Professor Shujun Li, University of Kent; Dr Iis Tussyadiah, University of Surrey; and Professor Jay Bal, University of Warwick

The provision of a seamless travel experience increasingly requires travellers to share data with numerous travel and tourism providers, yet a general guidelines means that many travellers share data without understanding the privacy and security risks and consequences, or are overly worried to the extent that they stop sharing data altogether. PriVELT aims to develop a user-centric platform to address both issues, allowing travellers to better manage the sharing of their personal data and encouraging a more transparent and effective use of data by travel service providers.

Citizen Forensics - EP/R033862/1

Led by: Professor Arosha Bandara, Open University

The project aims to support a new engagement between authorities such as the police and communities in order to better investigate and, in the long-term, reduce potential or actual threats to citizen security, safety and privacy. Harnessing IoT, Smart City and Smart Homes technologies, the project will explore new methods for citizens to provide data to the authorities in order to improve public safety, while also protecting privacy and anonymity and empowering citizens to hold authorities to account. The Citizen Forensics project will achieve this by bringing together software engineering psychology and policing research expertise at the Open University and the University of Exeter, with a national consortium of policing organisations and local government agencies.

Notes to editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

EPSRC is the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation.

Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future UK prosperity by contributing to a healthy, connected, resilient, productive nation.

Reference: PN 21-18

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Name: EPSRC Press Office
Telephone: 01793 444404