Kent to lead on £1.4m Government research project on protecting leisure travellers’ data

Airport departure board

The University of Kent will lead one of 11 new government research projects, addressing challenges about “Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security in the Digital Economy”.

PRIvacy-aware personal data management and Value Enhancement for Leisure Travellers (PriVELT)”, will be coordinated by the University of Kent as the lead institution.

The project’s overall aim is to develop a digital platform that will empower leisure travellers to better manage the sharing of their personal data. It also aims to  foster new business opportunities for the travel and tourism industry through encouraging better (more transparent and effective) usage of travellers’ data.

The project’s principal investigator Professor Shujun Li said, “I cannot wait to start working on this exciting new project. The rapid development of technologies such as smart phones, mobile payment systems, sharing economy (e.g., Airbnb and Uber) and service robots has been drastically changing the whole travel industry and people’s travel experience, with increasing concerns on privacy protection of travellers’ personal data. By conducting the project, we aim at providing solid evidence on a social-technical framework that will lead to a set of new tools benefiting both travellers and travel service providers. We would also like to engage wider stakeholders, so if you are interested in contributing to the project please feel free to get in touch with us.”

The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will develop a user-centric platform based on a framework of privacy-related traveller behaviour. The framework will provide intervention points to effectively nudge travellers to share their personal data more responsibly. The project draws from theories in social sciences, including consumer psychology and behavioural economics, to better explain how consumers make decisions to disclose personal information in exchange for values. The project also considers travellers’ psychological limitation, such as limited understanding of privacy risks, which may induce irrational behaviour in privacy-related decision-making process while traveling.

It will involve a group of researchers working in five academic disciplines (Computer Science, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Psychology, Business, Law) at three UK universities (University of Kent, University of Surrey, and University of Warwick). It has an overall budget of £1.4m, with 80% (£1.1m) funding from EPSRC. It is expected to start in October 2018 and will last for 36 months.

This interdisciplinary and inter-institutional project’s overall lead will be Professor Shujun Li, Director of Kent Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Cyber Security (KirCCS)and a Professor of Cyber Security of University of Kent’s School of Computing. At Kent the project will involve Professor Alex Freitas of the School of Computing, an expert in AI, Dr Lisa Dickson of Kent Law School, an expert of data protection and privacy law, and Dr Mario Weick from the School of Psychology, an expert in social and cognitive psychology, as co-investigators. Co-investigators from other partner institutions include Dr Iis Tussyadiah, Professor Graham Miller, and Professor Annabelle Gawer from the University of Surrey, Professor Jay Bal and Dr Xiao Ma from the University of Warwick.

The project will work closely with a number of unfunded external partners who will contribute to the project in various ways. Such partners include China Travel Service, Crossword Cybersecurity Ltd, Expedia (International), HAT Community Foundation (HCF), International Federation for IT and Travel & Tourism (IFITT), NCC Group, PredicSis, and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

In order to achieve its aim, the project’s research will be interdisciplinary, co-created, theory-informed, evidence-based, user-centric, and real world-facing. The project will combine both social and technical methods to collect and analyse data, integrating focus groups and interviews with relevant stakeholders, a panel survey, lab-based user studies, and field studies with real domestic and international travellers (end users) to identify and apply an array of effective nudging strategies to inform travellers with risks and consequences of sharing personal data while traveling.

Background information

In 2010, the UK government’s National Security Strategy identified cyber as a Tier 1 threat to the UK which led to the creation of the UK National Cyber Security Strategy published in 2011. As a result, from 2011 to 2016, the UK government funded a £860 million National Cyber Security Programme to deliver the strategy’s vision of ‘a vibrant, resilient and secure cyberspace’. This was renewed in November 2016 by another 5-year programme with an increased investment of £1.9 billion until 2021. As an integral part of this national initiative, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council(EPSRC) released two calls to address challenges about “Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security in the Digital Economy”, the first one in 2015 and the second in 2017.

The 2017 call received a total of 31 research proposals and the results of this research call were made public on EPSRC’s website at in April 2017. A total of 11 projects will be funded over the next 3 years on topics such as personalisation, trusted data sharing, trust management, privacy, and forensics.