Adaptive PETs to manage dynamic changes to privacy needs during major life transitions

Start date

1 October 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

UKRI and/or University of Surrey

Funding information

We are offering the UKRI standard stipend (currently £18,622 per year) with an additional bursary of £1,700 per year for full 3.5 years for exceptional candidates. In addition, a research, training and support grant of £3,000 over the project is also offered. Full home or overseas tuition fees (as applicable) will be covered.


​​Major life transitions such as coming out as LGBTQIA+ or a relationship breakdown or a serious illness can lead to drastic and dynamic changes to the privacy requirements of ordinary citizens. This project will learn how to detect such needs and develop tools to protect citizens in one or more scenarios of interest.​ 

​​Many of us will experience significant disruptions to our lives such as a breakdown of a significant relationship, a serious illness etc. Such events can change our privacy needs introducing new complex constraints (e.g., after a relationship breakdown, separating out online accounts after a multi-year relationship, without compromising the privacy of either partner). While we are consumed by these events, we need support to manage our privacy needs. The Surrey Centre for Cyber Security is leading a major project called AP4L, which has over 30 researchers looking into all aspects of this problem, ranging from human factors to criminology, psychology and legal aspects, and presents an exciting opportunity for the PhD candidate to collaborate with academics and researchers in the universities of Cambridge, QMUL and Strathclyde. Working in conjunction with the AP4L researchers, and guided by the supervisory team (Dr. Toreini, Dr. De and Prof. Sastry), the PhD candidate will develop new Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) to protect against privacy compromises during particular life transitions. The tools and techniques developed might involve the use of privacy preserving Machine Learning techniques for example, or may apply cryptographic primitives in novel ways. Potential applicants are invited to identify a life transition of interest and propose potential solutions, or to approach the supervisory team for a collaborative discussion on possibilities. The goal of this highly applied project will be to develop new tools and techniques that can be of practical use to people during periods of their lives during which they are especially vulnerable.​

Eligibility criteria

These studentships are open to both UK and international candidates.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our Computer Science PhD programme.

Up to 30% of our UKRI-funded studentships can be awarded to candidates paying international rate fees. Find out more about eligibility.

Desired skills: 

  • Strong programming skills in modern languages such as Python 
  • Critical thinking and problem solving 
  • Familiarity with cryptographic concepts and security protocols 
  • Familiarity with privacy-focused regulations such as GDPR and EU digital iD 
  • Familiarity with matrix/vector notation and operations.  
  • Familiarity with basics of probabilities, gaussian distributions, mean, standard deviation, etc.  

Basic machine learning and/or natural language processing proficiency.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Computer Science PhD programme page. ​Specify the title of the project. Please also feel free to submit a short research proposal on a possible tool or technique (as described in the project proposal). This proposal may be collaboratively developed with the supervisory team.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Suparna De
35 BB 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 682261

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