Psychology part of £1.85 million project to combine real and cyber identities

Researchers in the Department of Psychology are part of a unique, international project to look at the complex nature of identity, both in the real world and online.

The three year research study, which will investigate our 'Super-Identity', aims to tackle the issues associated with unreliable and counterfeit identification and provide a faster and more efficient way of combatting the problem.

Dr Danaë Stanton Fraser will lead researchers Lia Emanuel and Chris Bevan, working in partnership with the universities of Southampton, Oxford, Dundee, Kent, Leicester and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (USA).

Dr Stanton Fraser said: "The SuperID project provides the CREATE Lab with an exciting opportunity to carry out both quantitative and qualitative studies exploring the role of cyber behaviour in establishing identity. With our expertise in human computer interaction we will also be involved in the design of innovative interfaces for the intelligence agencies in the US and the UK."

Recent findings from the National Fraud Authority, which is part of the Home Office, estimate that the risks of identity fraud, and its knock-on effects, cost the UK more than £2.7 billion a year. The researchers hope the Super-Identity project will provide an enterprising and unique solution to this crime.

The assumption underlying the project is that whilst there may be many dimensions to an individual’s identity - some more reliable than others - all should ultimately reference back to a single core identity or a 'Super-Identity'. 

By collating information about real-world and online identities (such as measures of the face, walk, voice, or online browsing behaviour), the project seeks to find out how to recognise this core identity more effectively.

The first stage of the project is to define the set of identity measures across a diverse demographic of the population. In light of the potential impact upon our fundamental human rights, social, legal and ethical concerns will be examined, with particular attention paid to privacy and data protection issues. Once this framework is in place, extensive testing will be conducted to gauge the accuracy and reliability of automated and human identification from each measure, and from the combination of measures, in order to provide greater confidence in determining identity.

The £1.85 million project is funded by EPSRC under the Global Uncertainties Programme, and is supported by the United States Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, under its Visualization and Data Analytics Program.

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