How can you strengthen the confidence of users in Facebook? Uni Graz researchers are working on this in an EU project

Pablo López-Aguilar Beltrán


Again and again Facebook gets into negative headlines due to the handling of personal data. The New York Times, referring to The Observer of London and The Guardian, reported a few days ago that the company "Cambridge Analytica" had illegally used data from millions of Facebook users. To explain: In the context of the "thisisyourdigitallife" survey app, the data were originally collected for research purposes. Although "only" 270,000 Facebook users used this app, they also accessed the data of the respective "friends" of the users. They were then passed on by the app operator to Cambridge Analytica for commercial use.

Impact description

Facebook responded to the latest incident by changing its terms and conditions and updating its privacy policy for the first time in three years. In addition, significantly higher investments in the area of security are to be made with immediate effect. Mark Zuckerberg must answer to the US Congress. The European Commission has also called for talks.

"The European Union has recognised the potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) for the data (driven) economy. In her efforts to create a digital internal market, she is working intensively to restore public confidence in ICT products," explains Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Staudegger, Head of the Department of Law and IT at the University of Graz. In the "Horizon 2020" research framework programme, the European Commission supports projects in this area in particular that develop solutions. The University of Graz is part of such a H2020 project called " -TRUst-Enhancing certified Solutions for SEcurity and protection of Citizens' rights in digital Europe", funded by the European Commission. The Graz team contributes expertise from the disciplines of ethics, sociology and law. "Sociological studies clearly show that people want to use ICT, but have little confidence in what they have to offer," says Martin Griesbacher, employee at the Centre for Social Research, confirming the status quo. The aim of the project is to promote the creation of trustworthy quality labels by developing a catalogue of criteria and recommendations. They should make it easier for providers to improve ICT products and services in line with European values and help users to make an informed decision as to whether they want to trust an offer - or not. The aim is to restore user confidence by visibly improving the technology.

Recent events on Facebook underline the relevance and importance of this research. "The current data scandal surrounding Facebook clearly shows that several of the six core areas of trustworthiness in ICT products and services developed as part of the project have been ignored here. In particular, there was a lack of transparency regarding the use of the data," explains Professor Prof. Dr. Harald Stelzer, Political Philosophy. We also work on Veronika Beimrohr, Anna Haselbacher, Robert Link, Stefan Reichmann, Hristina Veljanova and Lorin-Johannes Wagner.

The opportunities offered by information and communication technology for economic and social development can only be realised if the legitimate expectations of users are taken into account. The catalogue of criteria developed within the scope of the project will be presented for the first time at the conference on 27/28 June 2018 at the University of Graz and put up for public discussion. In ICT we trust?" is the title of the event - and rightly critical in view of current developments.