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Concepts & Features

In PICOS we have developed a set of unique concepts to enhance privacy and identity management within (mobile) social communities. The concepts were prototypically implemented in our community applictions and tested in user trials. Learn more about these unique concepts and how they enhance privacy and trust on this site.

Enhanced Identity Management

Partial Identities

The concept of Partial Identities (PId) in PICOS enables users to manage their identity-related information in a convenient way. Users can create multiple Partial Identities. Each of these identities is represented by a dedicated identity profile, which contains selected personal information about the user, associated with this identity. The identities may be used in different usage contexts. This can help users to better represent their real-life roles and contexts within the community (e.g. work, family, friends). When participating in different Sub-Communities, Partial Identities also support users in hiding and revealing relations between various personal information.

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PICOS offers users tools for managing the privacy of their personal information on different levels of detail. Sub-Communities represent dedicated areas for community members, where they can discuss and exchange information and content. Each Sub-Community can consist of multiple members. By founding a Sub-Community, users can decide if they want to make the sub-community public or private. In the latter case the founders decides who is allowed to be a member of that Sub-Community. Information (e.g. discussion topics) and content (e.g. pictures) shared in such a private sub-community is only accessible by its members. Hence, Sub-Communities allow users to exchange content within limited groups of users and they help users to manage personal content in a convenient and differentiated manner.

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User Controlled Information Flows

Private Rooms

By means of Private Rooms (also called "My Files") users are enabled to have a personal area for managing their personal content. By default, all content of a users' private room is accessible only for the user who owns the private room. This allows users to store and manage personal content but also to selectively publish such private content to a certain limited set of other users, in case it is needed. For instance, if pictures from a recent holiday trip should be made available only to some close friends at home. The concept thereby contributes to the PICOS approach to give users more freedom and control over their personal information and content.

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For mobile services especially location and context information is of high interest. Such information allows enhanced and new services, to be personalised along the current context of the user in order to better adress his (potential) needs. Such services are already used in mobile communities, e.g. in form of friend locators or mobile shopping recommendations, and could be very helpful tools.
However, usually users are only able to decide between providing their exact location for such services or not providing it at all (e.g. to be displayed on a map for buddies). The PICOS concept of Blurring gives users the opportunity to hide their exact position, by obfuscating it on a location map, in a previously defined radius. Thereby users are enabled to decide to which degree their location is revealed. In a community like the Anglers community this enables a user to tell other anglers about the amazing lake he's currently angling at, without revealing the exact location of the latest big catch.

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Privacy Policies

The PICOS community prototype enables users to selectively define policies in order to control who is allowed to see certain personal information. These policies are built on rules that take context information into consideration as well.
A user is enabled to define, for each Partial Identity which information regarding presence (on-/offline), location or profile (e.g. age, interests) is accessible by other users within the community. Privacy Policies may also be defined for specific sub-communities. Additionally, the privacy wizard provides a step-by-step configuration of policies. The privacy policies are an important mean to specify precisely, who is allowed to have access to personal information of a user and thereby to support pro-active identity management. The concept further supports the user centricity in the identity management provided by PICOS.

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Advanced Privacy Awareness

Privacy Advisor

The Privacy Advisor (PA) is an innovative tool which guides users with regard to privacy and identity management related aspects. The Privacy Advisor accompanies the user and can give recommendations or warnings in case the user is about to disclose personal information. E.g. the Privacy Advisor might warn a user who is about to disclose information, like the telephone number or post code in a forum post. The Privacy Advisor thereby helps to create awareness for privacy related aspects within mobile communities, based on the userĀ“s current behavior and context. We perceive such awareness as an essential pre-condition for the acceptance and active use of privacy enhancing technologies within communities such as those provided by PICOS.

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