From Capital to Privacy – TRAPEZE mobile

A noble goal of the TRAPEZE project is the enlightenment of the European citizen. Light shall be brought to the seemingly impenetrable wilderness of personal data usage! Yet, the promised glory that awaits those at the time horizon of data protection still seems without grasp.

On the one hand, European citizens are confronted with micro-decisions on whom to give consent day in and out. For what purpose, for how long, under which terms. Oh, is there yet again a policy update? On the other hand, data controllers are busy deciphering data protection legislation and more so its vague and rapidly changing implications to their businesses. There does not seem to be a single best solution. In such situations, it often helps to take a step back, breathe, and think.

What is currently happening in the data-centric economy could be comically satirized with the following quote by the philosopher and non-privacy scholar Karl Marx:

 “Die wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es” (“They do not know it, but they are doing it”) – Das Kapital

Indeed, non-knowledge does not seem to imply non-usage. Conversely, the fact that you use money, drive a car, or use a smartphone does not imply that you understand how these things work. “These things” simply have interactional value to the user. It does not matter to the user what they are as long as they can be used.

If we believe in the words by Karl Marx with respect to the abstract concept of money and capital, it might be reasonable to consider its implications with respect to privacy and security. Do we actually know what privacy and security are? Is there value in trying to know? You might be surprised that TRAPEZE answers these questions in the negative!

The TRAPEZE project does not try to answer the question what privacy and security are. Instead, it is agnostic of any concept of privacy and security in the sense that it tries to provide transparency and control to European citizens. Instead of defining privacy and security, TRAPEZE provides technology to see beyond the surface of services to see what personal data is used and for what and even more, tools to control both.

We are currently developing TRAPEZE mobile, a mobile application that allows European citizens to detect cybersecurity threats on their smartphones individually. Once detected, the app provides practical instructions and functionality to remove those threats and avoid them in the future. In brief, it becomes clearer to European citizens what is happening on their devices to adjust accordingly. In the style of Marx: They know it, and they are doing it.

By Tobias Eichinger, tobias.eichinger@tu-berlin.de