Contributions Program 2015-2016

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Project Descriptions

Project Title: Click If You Agree: Understanding Online Terms of Use and Privacy Policies in Plain Language (Ages 12‐14)
Organization: MediaSmarts
Project Leader: Jane Tallim
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,983

Project Description: MediaSmarts will develop a bilingual, interactive web resource aimed at children ages 12‐14 that will enable them to better understand online terms of use and privacy policies. Given the popularity of commercial Internet sites and the sophisticated data collection opportunities the web provides to marketers, it is important that young people’s attitudes about protecting their privacy be established at an age when they are starting to discover these sites independently. Understanding the terms of use and privacy policies that young people must agree to before being allowed to use Internet sites is critical, especially in terms of protecting personal information and fostering privacy-sensitive decision‐making. This project will help young people to better understand the nuances of the contracts they agree to on their favourite sites and applications, so that they canstart to identify and analyze key parts of such agreements, especially in broad terms of their rights and responsibilities.


Project Title: Certificate Authority Report Card: Examining the Root of Data Protection on the Web
Organization: Concordia University
Project Leader: Jeremy Clark and Mohammad Mannan
Location: Quebec
Funding Amount: $49,225

Project Description: Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protects user data when in transit on the web but this protection relies on the endpoint being properly identified with a certificate. The trust model of the protocol includes entities called Certificate Authorities (CAs), who are the de facto trusted parties for issuing certificates to the correct entities. However, any single malicious or compromised CA can allow any HTTPS connection to be actively tapped. The project aims to study this issue by identifying and interacting with CAs, and to produce the first-ever CA Report Card, which will summarize and evaluate the process each of the CAs use to validate the identity of ITS customers. The CA Report Card will be provided for free online, accompanied with an infographic summary. The researchers will also produce an academic paper detailing the full methodology and their findings.


Project Title: Paving the Way for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS): The Privacy Implications of Vehicular Infotainment Platforms
Organization: University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Project Leader: Rajen Akalu
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $45,243

Project Description: This project will study and assess the privacy implications of car infotainment systems. These systems are a combination of information and entertainment hardware and software products, which are built into or can be added to vehicles with a view to enhancing driver or passenger experience. The researchers aim to evaluate the information stored in automobile infotainment units, as well as what this information discloses about end users and their actions. This project involves tracking personal information as it passes through a typical infotainment system. Infotainment logs will be analyzed in order to determine driver usage patterns and identify possible secondary uses of the information, as well as strategies that consumers might employ to safeguard their privacy while driving. Privacy information officers of leading car manufacturers will be interviewed to determine how they are addressing privacy concerns surrounding infotainment systems.


Project Title: A Comparative Analysis of Fitness Tracker Privacy and Security
Organization: Open Effect
Project Leader: Andrew Hilts
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,170

Project Description: Fitness tracking devices collect highly-sensitive personal and biometric data, including one’s walking gait, geolocational information, blood glucose levels, and heartbeat patterns. This project will examine the relationship between the data collection and transmission practices of fitness tracking devices, the cloud services they integrate with, and how third parties may obtain access to this information. The researchers will analyze the privacy policies for each device studied using a framework that seeks to identify commitments to user control, security, use limitations, and third-party disclosures. The researchers will perform a detailed technical analysis of how these devices store personal data, how and to whom they transmit data, and the rigour of the mechanisms employed to secure these processes. They will assess various fitness tracker companies’ responsiveness to access to information requests. The project will result in an online “device guide” that will make it simple for individuals to compare various fitness trackers and file personal information requests with their fitness tracking device companies.


Project Title: Improving Children’s Mobile Privacy Awareness and Behaviour
Organization: Carleton University, School of Computer Science
Project Leader: Sonia Chiasson
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $50,000

Project Description: The main purpose of this research is to improve children's understanding of mobile online privacy, enable them to recognize potentially risky situations, and empower them to better protect themselves. This research project has three phases. Firstly, researchers will conduct an initial user study with Canadian children and their parents to better understand their mobile device usage. Secondly, they will design and develop interactive educational material about mobile privacy, based on the most important gaps identified in the previous phase. Lastly, the researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of their designs through user studies. The project will result in publicly available, interactive educational materials teaching children about mobile privacy risks and encouraging them to assume proactive, privacy-conscious behaviours when online.


Project Title: Detecting Account Compromise in Online Social Networks
Organization: University of British Columbia
Project Leader: Ivan Beschastnikh
Location: British Columbia
Funding Amount: $32,773

Project Description: Because online social network websites contain valuable private information about their members, they are often targeted by malicious parties. This project will help social network users confront this problem by developing a set of algorithms and mechanisms to: (1) characterize a user’s typical behavior on a social networking site by creating a model that is learned by observing the user’s behavior; (2) identify when a user's activity on the site violates the learned model; and (3) when a violation is detected, lock the account and notify the account holder by email or text message. The project will build a Facebook application that users can employ to protect themselves against account compromise.


Project Title: Open Data, Open Citizens? The Private Sector Beneficiaries of Government Open Data Policies and the Consequences for Privacy
Organization: Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Project Leader: David Fewer
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $47,200

Project Description: CIPPIC will survey government open data portals and their exploitation by commercial private sector data analytic firms, and assess potential implications for Canadians’ privacy. Specifically, the project will: (a) survey data made available through open data portals of different levels of government in Canada with a view to identifying open data that relates to individuals and therefore has potential privacy consequences, and; (b) assess the collection, use and disclosure of open data by private sector “big data” analytics enterprises. For this project, CIPPIC is particularly interested in discovering the extent to which private sector actors are combining open datasets with other datasets with consequent risk of “re-identifying” individuals.


Project Title: “Lawful” Access after Snowden
Organization: University of Ottawa, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
Project Leader: Wesley Wark
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,450

Project Description: This project will explore the implications of the Edward Snowden revelations regarding the relationships between government signals intelligence authorities and private sector telecommunications companies (TSPs) over access to and sharing of metadata and private communications. One of the products of the research will be a report focusing on a discussion of future trends in the relationship between Canadian signals intelligence and private sector TSPs, and the privacy concerns likely to be engendered by the activities of both parties. The final report will also explore the implications of enhanced or on-going access by signals intelligence agencies to metadata and private communications.


Project Title: Interactive radio series on privacy
Organization: Coopérative radiophonique de Toronto (CRT) - CHOQ-FM
Project Leader: Tonia Mori
Location: Ontario
Funding Amount: $49,992

Project Description: This project aims to develop and broadcast a series of 12 interactive radio episodes about new issues related to privacy. The objective of this series is to provide clear answers to questions and concerns Canadians have about the privacy of their personal data, and summarize in plain language different research results on the matter. Each one-hour episode will focus on a different target audience, such as parents, teenagers, teachers, professionals or the self-employed, young adults, the elderly, and consumers. The episodes will be broadcast in Toronto by CHOQ-FM, in Montreal by CIBL-FM, as well as by different francophone community radio stations across Canada. A web page with clips from each episode will also be created and posted on the CHOQ-FM website.

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