Why tell a website that you were born on 12 February 1985, when it only requires that you are a teenager?
Or why provide your entire home address when you are only required to prove that you are a citizen of a municipality?
Giving away these personal details in 2009 led to 10 million identity thefts in the United States (FTC) alone, which in dollars equals $221 billion (Aberdeen Group).
Whether it’s showing identification to a car rental agency, a health insurance provider or to social networking website, we often give away much more personal information then is required, simply because there is little alternative.
The European Union is trying to change this with a new multi-million Euro project called ABC4Trust that was announced today on international Data Privacy Day.
Based on encryption technology from IBM Research – Zurich and Microsoft and academia and corporate partners across Europe, including Nokia Siemens, ABC4Trust is based on cryptographic algorithms to help ensure that an individual’s real identity, including personal attributes and behavior profiles, are never exposed without the individual’s consent. The concept is simple, in that it masks the users data and only reveals what is being requested, which can often be answered without revealing anything.
For example, if the request is, “You must be under 16 years old to enter this website, please type in your birthday.” The technology will only respond with yes, authenticating that you are under 16.
IBM’s own Swiss scientist Dr. Jan Camenisch adds, “With these technologies we provide the technical capabilities to bring not only strong security to Internet services, but — at the same time — also better privacy. Making use of more than ten years of research and development, we are now going to deploy these solutions in practice and address usability and interoperability.”
This technology is suitable for a wide range of applications, including insurance and healthcare services, online shopping websites or credit cards.
As part of the ABC4Trust project, the technology will be piloted at two academic institutions in Sweden and Greece.
Watch the video to hear from the scientists involved in the project.