Privacy Translucence: How?


The last post presenting the idea of privacy translucence as a use case was prompted by the PrivOn workshop on online privacy, which interestingly was collocated with the International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC). More precisely, I had a paper at this workshop, which focused on this use case and on some of the tools we have developed to support it. Indeed, the whole argument was that, as described previously, the idea of building web privacy mirrors that integrated and made sense of users’ online privacy-related behaviours generated huge challenges that were the ones generally targeted by semantic web technologies. It is quite clear however that, even if these challenges are difficult to address, a number of initiatives can start addressing some of the smaller issues, hopefully converging to a more complete solution.

Indeed, several systems already implement this idea to a certain extent, from tools to ‘track the trackers’ (Ghostery, Collusion and Spy Watch, which was presented at the workshop) to personal analytics services (Wolfram|Alpha Facebook, Moluti, etc.) Here, we presented some of the investigations we have been conducting over the last couple of years, starting with experiments into ‘Web Lifelogging’, to studies of activity consumer data, identifying the impact of giving access to such data to users on privacy perceptions and policies. Our latest work into the area reduces the scope to one of the largest source of ‘privacy ambiguities’ on the Web: Facebook. The tool, called epifabo, is a proof of concept showing how ontology-based and epistemic logic-based reasoning can give users a better view of the privacy consequences of their (and others’) actions on the social networking system.

These tools and prototypes illustrate the notion of semantic, web privacy mirrors in different scopes and context. They also demonstrate, through their limitations, the need for a more global, coherent initiative addressing the issue, mentioned numerous times in the workshop, of user awareness of and control over online privacy.

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