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Empowering citizens to manage their own digital identifiers by leveraging their trusted social networks

School of Computing

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Mr P Cruickshank , Dr Z Jaroucheh , Dr Gemma Webster Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

There is an increasing research interest in security as a service design and user experience issue, and some calls to examine the information practices around privacy and security. However, while there has been research into these areas, particularly by those designing systems, its focus has been on users working in an organisational context, with very little (if any) into users accessing a system from outwith the corporate context such as citizens or customers. Similarly, there has been little academic research into activities in relation to digital identity whereby digitally-unsure users are helped to access systems by their trusted social network (often information professionals such as librarians or digital inclusion officers, but also family members).

The work on the doctoral study PhD will focus on the management of digital identifiers in cases where the less digitally confident share their details with others, for instance as used in decentralised identity systems. The study will address the gap between (a) users’ real-world information practices around sharing access to digital identifiers and (b) the assumptions of self-management that underpin the concept of many decentralised identity infrastructures.

The research aspects of this project are information and people focused, and it will make use of advanced digital identity frameworks such as self-sovereign identity and distributed identity. This project is for a student with a focus on information practice research, and an interest in and ability to understand and explain the underlying technologies.

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in a subject that has included information science and/or (cyber) security with a good fundamental knowledge of information systems.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted.

Essential attributes:
• Experience of fundamental topics related to information science
• Competent in qualitative research
• Knowledge of information behaviour, data protection, information security
• Good written and oral communication skills
• Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
• Good time management

Desirable attributes:
An ability to work with a range of people (including researchers and practitioners) across different disciplines, in particular, an interest in understanding relevant technologies and how they can work in cases where citizens are not skilled or motivated computer users.

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded position


Buchanan, S., Jardine, C., & Ruthven, I. (2019). Information behaviors in disadvantaged and dependent circumstances and the role of information intermediaries. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 70(2), 117–129.
Coles-Kemp, L., & Hansen, R. R. (2017). Walking the Line: The Everyday Security Ties that Bind. In T. Tryfonas (Ed.), HAS 2017: International Conference on Human Aspects of Information Security, Privacy, and Trust (pp. 464–480).
Dourish, P., & Anderson, K. (2006). Collective Information Practice: Exploring Privacy and Security as Social and Cultural Phenomena. Human-Computer Interaction, 21(3), 319–342.
Jøsang, A., Fabre, J., Hay, B., Dalziel, J., & Pope, S. (2005). Trust requirements in identity management. Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology Series, 44, 99–108.
Kaczmarek, M., Shankar, S., & Nathan, L. P. (2019). Information practice, responsibility, and the ability to respond. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 55(1), 837–838.
Moncur, W., Durrant, A., & Martindale, S. (2014). An introduction to charting the digital lifespan. Paper presented at CHI 2014 Workshop on Designing Technology for Major Life Events, Toronto, Canada.
Zagouras, P., Kalloniatis, C., & Gritzalis, S. (2017). Managing User Experience: Usability and Security in a New Era of Software Supremacy. In T. Tryfonas (Ed.), HAS 2017: International Conference on Human Aspects of Information Security, Privacy, and Trust (pp. 174–188).

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