Published: 11 November 2019

Leading digital project considering privacy around children’s e-books

‘ThingSpace’ is the data that is created by users on devices. Who owns that data? Should firms take it by default, after all, they built the device and the software. What are the issues around privacy and trust? Considering children’s e-books helps raise these concerns.

Professor Glenn Parry has brought £85,000 EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) funding to the Centre of Digital Economy at Surrey Business School as part of the Dynamic, Real time, On-demand Personalisation for Scaling (DROPS) project. Professor Parry’s DROPS work examines the privacy, trust and identity issues that arise from the development of personalised e-books for children's reading.

There is conclusive evidence around the benefits and value of personalised e-books for children’s learning, reading and enjoyment, however there is a significant lack of research that engages with the range of privacy issues that these technologies introduce.

This project utilises the HAT (Hub of All Things) microserver, a new, fully scalable technology which is a decentralised and person-owned database, which can enable individuals to own their own data and yet be able to interact with all the websites and apps they love.

Professor Parry is working with Dr Mingwei Hsu, who joins the department as part of the project. Their work examines the personalisation-privacy paradox, where seeking personal data to improve a service may also lead to a reduction in customers due to privacy concerns. They have also undertaken a game theoretic analysis, an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in humans and computers, which shows how using personal data stores may enable small firms to disrupt markets.

This project will officially conclude at the end of June 2020.


Professor Parry commented:

“USA were recently looking to legislate for more open APIs (Application Programming Interface), which allows people to give others access to their data, which can lead to their data being uncontrolled, which is indicative of why this area needs a lot of careful thought. Longer term I hope we can clarify the need to structure data management more clearly; provide guidance for firms and influence policy.”

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