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  Trust, risk and digital identity for digitally-unsure citizens

   School of Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment

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  Dr Peter Cruickshank, Dr David Haynes  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

There is an increasing research interest in security as a user experience issue (Zagouras et al, 2017), and some calls to examine the information practices around privacy and security (eg Dourish & Anderson, 2006). However, while there has been research into these areas, particularly by those designing systems, the focus has been on users working in an organisational context. There has been little academic research into activities in relation to digital identity, whereby digitally-unsure users ask for support to access systems (for instance to claim benefits (Lips, 2013; Whitley et al, 2014)) from their trusted social network (Cruickshank et al, 2020). These can range from information professionals such as librarians or digital inclusion officers, but can also include family members (Buchanan et al, 2019; Levy & Schneier, 2020). There has been some research into how the risks are perceived (Haynes & Robinson, 2021) but there are gaps in research from the perspective of the digital or information literacies involved.

The work on the doctoral study PhD will focus on how these citizens perceive and manage the risks associated with their digital identity/ies, focussing on scenarios the less digitally confident share their details with others. 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 many identity infrastructures.

The RQs that this project will address are:

1. What are the literacies involved in managing digital identity

2. What are the agency and trust decisions around sharing identity information

3. How do less digitally literate citizens perceive and manage the resulting risks

The research aspects of this project are information and people focussed. This project is for a student an interest in information practice research, but also ability to understand and explain the underlying technical solutions

The research will be conducted within the social informatics research group , where the PhD student can will join a lively and support community of researchers. The group was highly rates in the recent REF2021 assessment exercise, with a very strong research environment. We have excellent international links and a good track record of working collaboratively with partners in the UK and around the world. Our high profile digital identity and trust lab may also be of relevance to this project.

Perspective applicants are encouraged to contact the Supervisor before submitting their applications. Applications should make it clear the project you are applying for and the name of the supervisors.

Academic qualifications

A first-class honours degree, or a distinction at master level, or equivalent achievements ideally in information science, user experience or allied subject; alternatively cybersecurity (digital identity management).

English language requirement

If your first language is not English, comply with the University requirements for research degree programmes in terms of English language.

Application process

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the supervisor, Dr Peter Cruickshank ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss the content of the project and the fit with their qualifications and skills before preparing an application. 

Contact details

Should you need more information, please email [Email Address Removed].

The application must include: 

Research project outline of 2 pages (list of references excluded). The outline may provide details about

  • Background and motivation, explaining the importance of the project, should be supported also by relevant literature. You can also discuss the applications you expect for the project results.
  • Research questions or
  • Methodology: types of data to be used, approach to data collection, and data analysis methods.
  • List of references

The outline must be created solely by the applicant. Supervisors can only offer general discussions about the project idea without providing any additional support.

  • Statement no longer than 1 page describing your motivations and fit with the project.
  • Recent and complete curriculum vitae. The curriculum must include a declaration regarding the English language qualifications of the candidate.
  • Supporting documents will have to be submitted by successful candidates.
  • Two academic references (but if you have been out of education for more than three years, you may submit one academic and one professional reference), on the form can be downloaded here.

Applications can be submitted here. To be considered, the application must use:

  • SCEBE1123” as project code.
  • the advertised title as project title

All applications must be received by 3rd December 2023. Applicants who have not been contacted by the 8th March 2024 should assume that they have been unsuccessful. Projects are anticipated to start on 1st October 2024.

Download a copy of the project details here.

Communication & Media Studies (7) Computer Science (8)


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).
Cruickshank, P., Webster, G., & Ryan, F. V. C. (2020). Assisting information practice: from information intermediary to digital proxy. Proceedings of ISIC: The Information Behaviour Conference Pretoria, South Africa, 28th September to 1st October, 2020, 1–3.
Dourish, P., & Anderson, K. (2006). Collective Information Practice: Exploring Privacy and Security as Social and Cultural Phenomena. Human-Computer Interaction, 21(3), 319–342.
Haynes, D., & Robinson, L. (2021). Delphi Study of Risk to Individuals who Disclose Personal Information Online. Journal of Information Science,
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.
Levy, K., & Schneier, B. (2020). Privacy threats in intimate relationships. Journal of Cybersecurity, 6(1).
Lips, A. M. B. (2013). Reconstructing, attributing and fixating citizen identities in digital-era government. Media, Culture and Society, 35(1), 61–70.
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.
Mosafer, H., & Sarabadani, J. (2021). Identity in the Digital Age: A Review of Information Technology Identity (ITID) Research in Information Systems. Proceedings of the 54th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2627–2636.
Rana, N. P., & Dwivedi, Y. K. (2015). Citizen’s adoption of an e-government system: Validating extended social cognitive theory (SCT). Government Information Quarterly, 32(2), 172–181.
Whitley, E. A., Gal, U., & Kjaergaard, A. (2014). Who do you think you are? A review of the complex interplay between information systems, identification and identity. European Journal of Information Systems, 23(1), 17–35.
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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 About the Project