A web of lies

Posted by pt91 at Jan 24, 2012 10:58 AM |
University of Leicester researchers engage in unique international project on identity fraud by combining real and cyber identities

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 24 January 2012

A unique, international project tackling issues associated with unreliable and counterfeit identification both in the real world and online is being spearheaded with the involvement of researchers from the University of Leicester.

The three year research study looking at the complex nature of identity,  and investigating  ‘Super-Identity’,  aims to provide a faster and more efficient way of combating the problem.

Professor Monica Whitty, of the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, is Director of Digital Identities Group at the University and is focusing on cyber aspects of identity in the project.

She said: “The Super Identity project aims to provide an interactive visual interface to improve identification decisions. In a criminal context, identification of the wrong suspect can contribute to the criminal trial, conviction and sentencing of an innocent party, together with a failure to pursue the true perpetrator. The project will thus incorporate an augmented reality user-interface and move beyond any existing work through the combination of information from both real and cyber domains.”

Psychologist Dr Sarah Stevenage, Head of Psychology at the University of Southampton, who is leading the project, explains: “The capacity to identify one another is vitally important. It underpins social dialogue, commercial transactions, individual entitlements to goods and services, and issues of legal and criminal responsibility. In today’s society, each of these activities can take place both within the real world and the cyber world, making the concept of identity and the process of identification, more challenging than ever before.”

Recent findings from the National Fraud Authority (Oct 2010), 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.  Researchers hope the Super-Identity project will provide an enterprising and unique solution to this crime.

Dr Stevenage added: “With the problems associated with identity-fraud becoming ever more of a financial burden to individuals and to society as a whole, we believe that the benefits from this research will be substantial.  With better tools for human identification, we will be more able to successfully protect our personal privacy and data security, whilst improving our ability to identify the true suspect in crimes against society.”

The assumption underlying the Super-Identity 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 cannot be ignored.  As such these aspects shall also be examined, with particular attention paid to privacy and data protection issues. Once this framework is in place, extensive testing will be conducted to determine the accuracy and reliability of automated and human identification from each measure, and from the combination of measures, in order to provide an identity decision in which you can have confidence.

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. The research team includes experts from automated biometrics, psychology, forensic anthropology, human-computer interaction, mathematical modelling, complex data visualisation and IT law. The project is a collaboration between the universities of Southampton, Bath, Dundee, Kent, Leicester, Oxford, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (USA).


Notes for editors

1.     More information about the project can be found at www.superidentity.org

2.     The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via research Councils UK.

For further information contact:

Press Office Contact:

Ather Mirza

Press Office

Division of Corporate Affairs and Planning

University of Leicester

tel: 0116 252 3335

email: pressoffice@le.ac.uk

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