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Developing a Super Identity to target online security threats

Our researchers are involved in creating a complex model for accurately identifying people online.

Digital technology has enabled a proliferation of new ways for people to interact with each other.

Living more of their lives online gives people new means to portray and display their identity in these arenas – making the process of identification, and the threat of identity theft, more challenging than ever before.

As well as challenging the way identity works, these digital arenas also provide a means to look across different formats in order to be able to identify people. This can be used for positive means – such as social interaction or job procurement – but can also be used to detect criminal activity.

Researchers at the University of Bath are involved in creating a complex model for accurately identifying people online; and tackling the issues associated with unreliable and counterfeit identification - providing a faster and more efficient way of combating the problem.

Establishing a Super Identity

By triangulating physical attributes with existing biometric measures and newly developed understandings of cyber activity, our researchers aim to confidently identify individuals online – something the researchers are calling ‘Super Identity’.

We’ve done a number of studies looking at:

  • the social acceptability of the Super ID model - devising exercises to try to gauge opinions and attitudes around personal information and privacy, particularly in online settings
  • how people use touch screen technology – looking at swipe patterns to predict age range, gender, potential expertise with that device, and thumb length which can lead to numerous other biometric measures
  • how people portray themselves online – and whether that differs depending on the context e.g. online dating compared to job seeking

The project team will establish an understanding of the feasibility of Super Identification, developing prototype models, which will be tested with data analysts. They will also be involved in the design of innovative interfaces for intelligence agencies in the US and the UK.

All of this work will inform a model of identity, enabling researchers to look between the different identity measures and match them, known as Transform.

Researchers can measure the Transform from a physical piece of data to a digital piece of data and measure confidence that this piece of information gives a person’s identity.

Confidence will change, depending on the security measures an individual has used. It will be high for something like an iris scan, but much less so for blog authorship, for instance.

The interdisciplinary team will explore the project from a number of different viewpoints, developing a prototype and a number of studies and user case studies examining identity - and who we are in the 21st century.

‘We asked individuals to create an avatar of themselves, to facilitate a discussion around the types of information they might provide online and how different identity, as well as personality, attributes can come out of a creator’s avatar.’
Dr Lia Emanuel, Department of Psychology

Understanding identity in the 21st century