Nowadays, people use the internet for a myriad of motives, from interacting with friends and family to reading the news or online shopping.
The associated web browsers continually access personal and sensitive data like credit card numbers or health data. This can be problematic as the data processing is not observable by the user and generally lacks transparency.
In addition, websites covertly record users' activities through so-called tracking. This frequent practice negatively impacts users as their data are unwittingly circulated to other providers.
For website operators, tracking is undoubtedly beneficial because the insights from this data help tailor their online presence to their users. In doing so, the likelihood increases to - for example - sell more products.
Against this background, operators are unlikely to abandon problematic tracking applications for better user transparency. Finding a sustainable solution to this conflict of interest remains an open challenge.
Goals and Approach
The project "Transparency and Sensitisation in Ubiquitous Computing Worlds" (UbiTrans) aims to develop and research novel tools that enable users to effectively and quickly assess what website contents and processes - visible or not - they encounter.
Our researchers concentrate specifically on web browsers, which are almost ubiquitously used to access websites. One focal point is the research and development of crowdsourcing-based methods, where users are tasked to express and exchange their experiences and assessments of websites.
Secondly, intuitive tools in the form of browser extensions will be created and made available, empowering users to control the behavior of websites. One application might be the reliable and straightforward blocking of specific online content.
Based on the above tools, our researchers will create awareness training to sensitize internet users to the lack of data processing transparency and its consequences.
The development of all three components will be based on a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative survey and analysis of people's behavior on the internet.
Innovations and Perspectives
With its user-centered approach, UbiTrans will empower people to navigate the internet more informed and self-determinedly. The ease of use of the tools and their combination with awareness training will ensure a lasting impact. Raising internet transparency will simultaneously increase user confidence in websites and their services. Website operators will benefit from this increased confidence while still being able to use data for innovations per user preferences.
07/2022 - 06/2025
- Prof. Dr. Jens Gerken (Inclusive Human-Robot Interaction)
- Kirill Kronhardt (Inclusive Human-Robot Interaction)