School of Computing and Engineering

Privacy and Risk in Online Social Networks

Primary Supervisor: Dr Liang Chen

Start dates: January, May and September of each academic year

Duration: 3 years full-time.

Research context

Research at the University of West London lives in an ecosystem of interdisciplinary research. This PhD position is based in the School of Computing and Engineering.

The concept of self-management privacy policies in online social networks has received considerable attention in recent years, and a number of approaches have been proposed to enable data owners to define policies that control who can access to their own data. Relationship-based access control is a resulting approach that has been employed by major social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It allows data owners to specify privacy policies based upon various relationships (e.g. friends, co-workers, family) that exist between themselves and potential requesters. While this relationship-based approach provides simplicity and flexibility to data owners, it often fails to enforce the privacy requirements in the presence of possible re-sharing and inference

Research goal

The main goal of this research is to address the limitations of existing approaches by utilising the recent advancement of artificial intelligence in the development of a novel risk-based self-management approach. More specifically, this project aims to:

  • analyse social networks to identify interdependency relationships between data items being shared in the networks;
  • analyse social networks to capture sharing behaviour among users in the networks;
  • design a risk-based mechanism that is dynamic and self-adaptive in both protecting privacy and controlling inference. 

Candidate profile

Applicants will be expected to hold a good first degree (first or upper second class) and a Masters degree (or equivalent) in computer science and combine solid theoretical background and excellent software development skills. 

The candidate should be able to work in a collaborative environment, with a strong commitment to reaching research excellence and achieving assigned objectives. It is expected that the PhD candidate will carry out applied research work that will start from the establishment of a theoretical framework, continue with the implementation of a software prototype and the experimentation with real data, and conclude with the validation of a proposed solution through a real-life user study.

Background knowledge and/or previous experience in the following areas (in order of preference), though not mandatory, will be considered very favourably: computer security, probability theory and algorithm complexity. 

All applicants for whom English is not their first language must also demonstrate their English language proficiency through evidence of IELTS at overall 7 (with 6.5 in all four skills) or by providing access to MA/MSc chapters or published work.

Further information

For general enquiries about the application process visit the Graduate School pages.

Questions regarding academic aspects of the project should be directed to