Free tools empower public in bid for online privacy

January 15, 2019, University of Bristol
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Protecting personal information while surfing the web or using apps is a concern for many of us and successfully shielding such data can be a struggle.

To tackle this challenge, the EU-funded Privacy Flag project has established a user-friendly monitoring and system which includes free tools for the public.

Professor Andrew Charlesworth, from the University of Bristol Law School, was a co-investigator on the project and helped to develop the Universal Privacy Risk Area Assessment Methodology to investigate the compliance of apps, websites and Internet of Things deployment with EU, Swiss and US laws.

As a result, developers have created a smartphone application, a add-on and a public website in six European languages, all connected to a shared knowledge database, to help citizens monitor and control their privacy.

The evaluation tools – which include an automatic alert mechanism whereby people can be notified of privacy breaches – are available for free download on the Privacy Flag website.

Built on a crowdsourcing model to design and select the best solution to protect privacy and data ownership, Privacy Flag promotes user awareness of how privacy can be increased and how it affects citizens and society.

Professor Charlesworth said: "The Privacy Flag project and its outputs and spin-offs represent a new generation of technology-supported initiatives designed to enable citizens to understand and control the ways in which their may be captured and reused in the digital environment, as well as to create support mechanisms for businesses that aim to develop and supply transparently -compliant services."

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation protects citizens' rights within its borders. Privacy Flag, in a bid to expand this protection, has created a voluntary system – known as the Privacy Pact – which enables companies outside the EU to sign up to and show their commitment to European standards.

Professor Charlesworth added: "One example of the sustainability of the project's outputs is the creation of the EuroPrivacy certification scheme on data protection, designed to enable a systematic and comprehensive analysis of compliance with the GDPR, applicable to products, services and data protection management systems, and encompassing emerging technologies such as data analytics and Internet of Things."

The project could also have a positive environmental impact because it contributes to reducing unwanted data flow on the internet and mobile phone networks. Currently, many apps are uploading and exploiting data not required for the app itself. Reducing this data flow could save energy and, ultimately, lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Explore further: Location data as an 'identifier' of personal data

Related Stories

Location data as an 'identifier' of personal data

December 6, 2018

A recent doctoral dissertation in legal studies reveals alarming news regarding the vulnerability of location and location data on mobile devices, and while using the internet and location-based services (LBSs) in those devices.

EU says data privacy deal with US can be improved

October 18, 2017

The European Union says that the one-year-old rules governing data transfers with the U.S. are working well but that some improvements can still be made to the system to guarantee EU citizens' privacy protection.

Facebook to launch privacy center ahead of EU regulations

January 31, 2018

Facebook says it will launch a new privacy center to help people understand what it does with their data as the giant social network prepares for sweeping new data protection rules in Europe designed to rein in the growing ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.