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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 10 - 11 giu 2014
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Internet: Eu project protects privacy

Online identification and authentication keeps transactions secure on the Internet, however this has also implications. Disclosing more personal information than needed online when, say, you log in to your bank website may simplify the bank’s security at the cost of your privacy.

Now, thanks to an EU-funded project, Attribute-based Credentials for Trust ABC4Trust, a new approach keeps systems secure and protects your identity.

Funded with 8.85 million Euro by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), ABC4Trust is a 13.05 million Euro project whose international and multidisciplinary consortium is led by  Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main (Germany), involving 11 partners from 7 countries. Started in November 2010 it will run for 4 ¼ years.

The research team is piloting this technology with young people, often thought to be the less careful about their online security. But “that’s not the case”, says Kai Rannenberg, coordinator of the ABC4Trust project. “The participants were very interested in learning which personal data they reveal and how they can control this. The university students especially feel that Attribute-based Credentials (ABCs) can help them manage their e-identities and enable them use Internet services in a privacy preserving way”.

At Norrtullskolan secondary school in Söderhamn, Sweden, pupils can access counselling services online. However, until recently the pupils couldn’t access these services using a pseudonym – they had to identify themselves by name so the school could check whether they were allowed to use them. In the ABC4Trust pilot scheme, each child is issued with a 'deck’ of digital certificates that validate information like their enrolment status, their date of birth and so on. This allows the school pupils to enjoy both privacy and security. Instead of revealing their whole identity when using the counselling service, they can simply use one of the certificates in their deck that pseudonymously verifies they are enrolled at the school.

Another pilot developed at the Computer Technology Institute and Press 'Diophantus' and trialled at the University of Patras, Greece, allows students to give anonymous feedback on their courses and lecturers, while ensuring that only registered students can take part in the polls. Prof. Rannenberg says, “Our user studies showed that the school children, parents and the university students are happy that they are giving less of their private information when they access the services and leave feedback. Also the respective authorities are happy with the pilots and the feedback; in the not too distant future we expect more European public services and other organisations switch to Privacy-ABCs”. Users want Privacy, Organisations want Security. According to recent research by market research organisation, Ovum, 68 % of us in the EU would like to opt out of having our personal data tracked. In a speech in May, Commissioner Neelie Kroes stressed that it is essential for EU business “to show the citizen that going online is not just convenient, but trustworthy… With resilient and secure networks and systems I think we can build that trust”.

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