My research group carries out research into lived experience in the Digital Age, with a focus on online identity, reputation, trust and cybersecurity. We traverse disciplinary boundaries, drawing on Human Computer Interaction, psychology, sociology, digital anthropology and design.
To ensure a breadth of understanding, we will apply these concepts to four very different transitions through a series of carefully designed co-creation activities, devised as part of a stakeholder workshop held in Oct'21. These are relationship breakdowns; LBGT+ transitions or transitioning gender; entering/ leaving employment in the Armed Forces; and developing a serious illness or becoming terminally ill. Such transitions can significantly change privacy considerations in unanticipated or counter-intuitive ways. For example, previously enabled location-sharing with a partner may lead to stalking after a breakup; 'coming out' may need careful management across diverse audiences (e.g - friends, grandparents) on social media.
We will study these transitions, following a creative security approach, bringing together interdisciplinary expertise in Computer Science, Law, Business, Psychology and Criminology.
We will systematise this knowledge, and develop fundamental models of the nature of transitions and their interplay with online lives. These models will inform the development of a suite of technologies and solutions that will help people navigate significant life transitions through adaptive, personalised privacy-enhanced interventions that meet the needs of each individual and bolster their resilience, autonomy, competence and connection. The suite will comprise:
(1) "Risk Playgrounds", which will build resilience by helping users to explore potentially risky interactions of life transitions with privacy settings across their digital footprint in safe ways
(2) "Transition Guardians", which will provide real-time protection for users during life transitions.
(3) "Security Bubbles", which will promote connection by bringing people together who can help each other (or who need to work together) during one person's life transition, whilst providing additional guarantees to safeguard everyone involved.
In achieving this vision, and as evidenced by £686K of in-kind contributions, we will work with 26 core partners spanning legal enforcement agencies (e.g., Surrey Police), tech companies (e.g., Facebook, IBM), support networks (e.g., LGBT Foundation, Revenge Porn Helpline) and associated organisations (e.g., Ofcom, Mastercard, BBC). Impact will be delivered through various activities including a specially commissioned BBC series on online life transitions to share knowledge with the public; use of the outputs of our projects by companies & social platforms (e.g., by incorporating into their products, & by designing their products to take into consideration the findings of our project) & targeted workshops to enable knowledge exchange with partners & stakeholders.
The research brings together multidisciplinary expertise in Socio-Digital Interaction, Co-design, Interactive Information Retrieval, and Computational Legal Theory, all working in collaboration with a key industry partner, the Royal Bank of Scotland, which employs more than 92,000 staff across 12 national, international and private banks and for which security concerns are paramount, as well as UK Government security agencies, via the Government Office for Science and the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats.
The research will examine the potential adverse revelations delivered by an individual employee's holistic digital footprint through the development of a prototype software tool that maps out a portrait of a user's digital footprint and reflects it back to them. This tool will enable individuals to understand the cumulative nature of their personal data, and better comprehend the associated vulnerabilities and risks. Responding to employers' concerns over organisational security risks created by cumulative revelations of their employees' data, the research will also identify conflicts and ambiguities in security service design and implementation when the motivations and actions of individual employees are balanced against organisational security philosophy, enabling mitigation against the attendant risks, issues and consequences of cumulative revelations from organisational and individual perspectives.