Strangers can build a fairly complete picture of our movements, transactions and relationships from the cyber-trail we leave behind. This has major implications for what has become a pervasive tool to society, business and administrations.
Privacy and identity management are fast becoming fundamental to future developments on the internet. Hard-won trust in e-commerce and in using e-government services, for example, could quickly erode if security issues are not properly addressed.
Two basic rules govern how people can better protect themselves online, according to specialists. First, we need to “separate contexts” so that observers cannot accumulate sensitive data – basically, by making it much harder for cyber-spies to join the online dots of our lives. Second, and crucially, we have to really keep track of what we do disclose.
These rules form the basis of the concepts and prototypes developed within the PRIME project. Perhaps borrowing from the Joan Armatrading song, PRIME’s mantra is “Me, myself and I! Manage your identities safely”.
“Our main aim is for people to gain autonomy over their personal data, so they can make informed decisions on what information they provide online,” says project partner Marit Hansen of Germany’s Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD, the Data Protection Authority for Land Schleswig-Holstein).
Like a good poker player who never fully reveals his hand, good identity management (IDM) means choosing and developing appropriate partial identities. For example, OnionCoffee is a PRIME software module written in Java to help end-users exchange information anonymously over the internet.
The EU-funded project has put together a toolbox, console (interface for managing identity online) and middleware (software to glue components together) to help individuals and organisations wrest control of their online identities.
The toolbox or building blocks make good use of tutorials, application modules and documentation, including a White Paper published in 2007. The tools PRIME developed marry the need for accountability (i.e. proving you are 18 to enter certain websites) with the need for anonymity.
A key component is the use of “private credentials” derived from certificates issued by, say, professional ID providers, such as online payment operators, on different pseudonyms for the same person.
“Multiple private credentials can be created from a single certificate,” says Hansen. Using cryptography, there is nothing tying them so the person's anonymity is assured. If the system is abused – i.e. fraudulent and/or antisocial behaviour – the anonymity built into the private credentials can be revoked, and appropriate action taken against the individual, she warns.Sticky policies
“Sticky policies” can also be written into IDM applications so that the policy literally travels on the back of the data being transferred. This means, if data is passed on (legally) to third parties, the policy stays with the data, thus protecting the source’s privacy (i.e. that means you and I).
So using a combination of pseudonyms and PRIME private credentials, data provided through e-commerce, e-health, or e-government applications are secured against future misuse. In principle, this also works in web-mail accounts and online social networking, which is one of the extended scenarios dealt with in the follow-up EU-funded project PrimeLife, starting in 2008.PET project
Data Track also records the privacy policies of the service providers, and lets you query how your data has been used after the fact. It also helps you (re)use appropriate accounts – logins and passwords – in different contexts, keeping them apart (unless otherwise instructed).
PRIME has developed its tools and applications in the sprit of the EU’s ‘privacy enhancing technologies’ (PET) initiative. According to the European Commission, wider development and use of PETs should boost efforts to protect citizens’ privacy. The project is also actively engaged in standard setting, such as ISO and W3C, in identity management.
Since 2004, PRIME has pioneered this multiple-context approach to digital IDM, suggests Hansen. Today, as online security concerns have grown, there is an even stronger case for its approach, as well as an untapped market for its components, especially with digital signature providers and mobile data handlers.
“The market is ripe for better data protection and privacy solutions, especially as more mobile data transactions take place, and we are well placed to capitalise on this,” confirms Hansen. “In fact, we’re very interested in commercial or marketing partnerships to make this happen.”
PRIME has already spun-off a location-based service system to Germany’s T-Mobile and plans to refine some of its tools and platforms, particularly in data structuring and workflow, in PrimeLife, which was recently presented at the CISTRANA Topical Seminar on ICT Security.
Christian Nielsen | alfa
Gecko adhesion technology moves closer to industrial uses
13.12.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology
New silicon structure opens the gate to quantum computers
12.12.2017 | Princeton University
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2017 | Life Sciences
14.12.2017 | Life Sciences