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Research project to investigate how our personal data can be better protected

Newsroom team

30 December 2018: Australians, per head of population, are among the highest users of Facebook in the world. There is also considerable personal data generated by other online interactions and app use. Many Australians use the Google search engine to investigate health-related and other personal issues.

We use Facebook to diarise aspects of our lives, our interests and to stay in contact with friends. Both have the potential to expose personal details more broadly than intended. For example, Google can get an insight into our interests by looking at our search history.

Inadvertently we have become vulnerable to exploitation by cyber criminals, and other organisations and governments. How can we better protect our privacy in the future, and how can Australian citizens have more of a voice in what happens to our personal data?

University of Canberra Professor, Deborah Lupton, of the News and Media Research Centre, Faculty of Arts and Design, has secured an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant to investigate these issues over the next two years.

Professor Lupton has been researching the topic for a number of years. She will use the ARC grant to look into data privacy issues using an innovative qualitative approach.

The project will include visits to people’s homes to talk to them about the digital technologies and personal data they use on an everyday basis. It also involves arts-based activities, with a science fiction approach to the concept. Artists and creative writers will be asked to present their image of the future of personal data. What technologies might be invented which may be helpful or harmful to people’s privacy?

Professor Lupton’s partner investigator is Professor Mike Michael from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

Together they will conduct fieldwork in Canberra, Sydney and country towns in the Canberra region.

The aim, through interviews and workshops, is to inspire people’s thinking about how they use their personal data and what third parties may access and use these details. The idea behind this approach is to generate more of a citizen voice on the best use and protection of their personal data.

This project will seek to reveal steps that can be taken to protect our privacy through thought-provoking and creative interactions with a variety of Internet users. It’s fair to say that many people are unaware of the implications of a third party using our personal details. This project will help us understand how we can enjoy the benefits of online media and apps while reducing risks to our privacy.