QCRI Awarded Prestigious Facebook Grant for Project on Privacy

HBKU’s Qatar Computing Research Institute Awarded Prestigious Facebook Grant for Project on Privacy Personas

06 Jan 2021

Collaborative research project will leverage QCRI’s expertise on data-driven personas for privacy insights

HBKU’s Qatar Computing Research Institute Awarded Prestigious Facebook Grant for Project on Privacy Personas

Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has been awarded a major research grant from Facebook for a new collaborative study examining digital privacy concerns in 21 Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries.

QCRI secured one of only five awards for their project titled “Privacy Personas in the MENA Region: A Large-Scale Analysis of 21 Countries” under Facebook’s ‘People’s Expectations and Experiences with Digital Privacy’ research call. The project outcome will be data-driven online personas of user segments based on social media privacy concerns and attitudes. 

The QCRI team responsible for developing the data-driven persona system and methodology known as Automatic Personal Generation (APG) will lead the collaborative research project. The APG team of Dr. Jim Jansen, principal scientist; Dr. Joni Salminen, scientist; and Soon-gyo Jung, software engineer, will partner with Dr. Lene Nielsen, associate professor at IT University of Copenhagen, Dr. David Yang, associate professor at the College of Science and Engineering at HBKU, Kareem Darwish, principal scientist at QCRI’s Arabic Language Technology Group, and Dr. Justin D. Martin, associate professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).

Developed through extensive research over the past four years, APG is a robust tool for turning online data into personas. It currently pulls data from several online analytics platforms and tools (e.g., YouTube Analytics, Google Analytics, and Facebook Insights) to automatically generate user personas representing the most engaged user segments. The use of personas is well established in human-computer interaction (HCI) as a method for understanding user segments. With APG, the QCRI team has demonstrated that the data from these online analytics platforms can be used to generate personas in real-time providing insights for  decision-makers. Since the data provided by the platforms is at an aggregated group level, only non-personally identifiable information is used, protecting the privacy of individual users. More details of the project are available at https://persona.qcri.org/ and https://quecst.qcri.org/

Commenting on the award, Dr. Jansen said: “We found, through APG, that the best use of personas in online analytics is combining numbers and human attributes to create dynamic, accurate, and constantly updated data-driven persona profiles. Moreover, when making and using user personas for security, it is best to ensure you are highly specific to different populations’ concerns. Therefore, we look forward to advancing this work and updating the persona creation concept through this cross-disciplinary collaborative effort with our esteemed research partners. We also express our thanks to Facebook Research for their support and the opportunity to collaborate and contribute to the collective knowledge of global privacy expectations.”

For more information on the work of Qatar Computing Research Institute, please visit qcri.hbku.edu.qa.