All About Trust and Reputation in the Digital World

7 Insights About Trust and Reputation in the Digital World

7 insights about trust and reputation-in-the-digital-world

  • One of the major and persistent threats to human well-being in the digital world is related to trust and reputation management; that is because while an ever-growing chunk of our daily life takes place in the digital world, this world has glaring weaknesses when it comes to trust and reputation management which makes it prone to fake news, fake reviews, digital identity theft, digital privacy breach, digital scamming, etc.
  • One of the most serious weaknesses of online trust and reputation management is the fact that trust and reputation management is very often a minor afterthought feature; moreover, the management is highly fragmented and scattered within a myriad of independent online services; instead, a comprehensive and unified approach built from the ground up is needed.
  • Human societies are organized hierarchically, and the basis of the hierarchy is trust, therefore trust and reputation management in the digital world should also be organized hierarchically; the hierarchy should be based on sincerity and experience/expertise, on a topic basis.
  • For the human brain, opinions, evaluations, and recommendations are much more useful than mere information because they have a big impact on trust inference. Trust inference encourages risk-taking and decision-making. Therefore, as far as online trust and reputation management is concerned, schemes based on opinions, evaluations, recommendations, and ratings should be used whenever this is possible.
  • There is a need to combine artificial intelligence with human intelligence in order to manage efficiently online trust and reputation by ensuring total transparency and traceability as to the estimate of trust and reputation and thus providing a trust assessment that is trustworthy; such would not be the case with a pure artificial intelligence approach.
  • The fundamental and unsolvable problem of existing social networks is that originally they were designed as networks, in other words with a focus on connecting people; their designers were oblivious to the fact that by connecting people, they create “virtual human societies”, opening the door to many “social” issues, including trust and reputation issues.
  • There is an urgent need to develop a new, more mature generation of social networks, centered on positive emotions: trust, empathy, kindness, gratitude, etc. as a response to the flaws of existing social networks; in particular the fact that they thrive to a significant extent on negative emotions: jealousy, anger, hatred, contempt, distrust, etc.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Can We Trust Digital Psychiatry?

Can We Trust Digital Psychiatry

Over the past few years, digital psychiatry research has gone into hyperdrive. As recent study results from a number of renowned institutions (such as Harvard, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the King’s College London) reveal, psychiatric patients, even those with severe illnesses such as schizophrenia can manage more efficiently their conditions with smartphones and wearable devices. Indeed, a range of technologies embedded within existing smartphones and wearable devices can collect and send valuable information to psychiatrists allowing accurate, real-time monitoring and enabling far more efficient diagnosis and treatment plans. For example, GPS data from a smartphone can give an accurate picture of a person’s movements, which in turn reveals a person’s mental health. As a 2016 study by the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University in Chicago has found, depressed people tend to stay at home more than when they are feeling well. Conversely, in a manic episode of bipolar disorder, patients are more active and on the move. Accelerometer data shed a light on a person’s movements and provide information about exercise patterns. The frequency of phone calls and text messages can be an indicator of any mental change; and voice analysis technologies can help detect vocal patterns that might signal post-traumatic stress disorder or postpartum depression.

Moreover, physiological data collected by some wearable devices such as heart rate and temperature can also reveal a person’s mental well-being. For example, heart rate variability can be used to track the severity of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Using data science and big data analytics to analyze all patient-related data streams provide therapists with valuable insights and actionable knowledge to devise and execute personalized and precise treatment plans through dedicated apps that monitor patients’ behavior and keep their treatment on track.

While the promise of digital psychiatry to better help those with mental illness is very enticing, many hurdles need to be addressed. One of the major challenges is related to trust. How can we make sure patients, some of them psychologically fragile, trust this whole new medical approach? Given the stigma associated with psychiatric illness, any security vulnerabilities, in data collection, transmission, storage, and processing can lead to serious privacy breaches and confidential patient data leaks with negative consequences on both professional and personal life. On top of that, the temptation of selling app users’ mental health information to corporations, especially data brokers and insurance companies, should be resisted and more stringent legislation should be enacted.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

The Dataobsessed or The Digital Reputation Obsession

The Datasexual or the Digital Reputation Obsession

One of the fascinating phenomena in the digital world is the dataobsessed, a person who is obsessed with his digital reputation.  The dataobsessed aims to embellish his social image in the digital world by investing time and effort in posting, on a regular basis, personal information to create an embellished personal narrative and make others think he is more successful than he really is.

The dataobsessed worships his digital ego, running the risk of being drowned in a narcissistic whirlpool.  He is committed to lifelogging and shares any item of personal information.  To that end, he monitors everything (his body, his surroundings, his friends and acquaintances, his presence in every physical and digital arena, etc.) and share row information and statistics to impress others.

The dataobsessed is an obsessive self-tracker and has an inclination to publish vanity metrics such as heart rate, weight, number of steps taken each day, number of followers on Twitter, number of friends on Facebook, number of followers on Instagram, number of followers and published articles on LinkedIn, etc..

Technologies like smart clothing and wearable computers will only amplify the dataobsessed phenomenon as they will usher in a new era in which ultra-connected dataobsesseds will have the possibility to share continuously information and statistics, for better or for worse.    

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Trust and Reputation in Healthcare Social Networks

trust-and-reputation-in-healthcare-social-networks - Trustiser

Healthcare social networks are gaining prominence as an essential environment for sharing health-related experiences and best practices, discussing symptoms and drug side effects, and exchanging ideas about treatment options.  Healthcare social networks can be either aimed at physicians or patients.

Physician social networks, such as Sermo, offer doctors the possibility to share clinical cases and medical knowledge.  The benefits for physicians are tremendous: they can solve problems more efficiently by making informed decisions, collaborate on difficult cases, and  get early insights into treatment developments.

Patient social networks, such as PatientsLikeMe, offer patients and caregivers, in a supportive environment, information about diseases, knowledge about symptoms and treatments, and patients’ health-related experiences and personal stories.

One of the biggest concerns about healthcare social networks is trust. This doesn’t come as a surprise, given the impact that the content of healthcare social networks may have on patients’ health and on the doctor-patient relationship.  The core question is to what extent can healthcare social networks’ users ( physicians and patients alike) trust the content of those social networks.  The shortcomings are many, for example, most patient social networks publish users’ comments and medical advices without verifying their validity.  They only announce that their content should not be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment and recommend that patients seek the advice of physicians or other qualified health providers.

In order to address the trust  issue, both physician social networks and patient social networks are working hard to add relevant trust and reputation features.  For example, physicians on Sermo rank each observation’s pertinence. Sermo also offers financial incentives to encourage evaluative commentary.  Nevertheless, existing trust and reputation features fall short of what is required for such services. We do think that healthcare social networks should place trust and reputation management at the heart of their services by opting for a hierarchical social network organization.  The hierarchies have to be based on trust with regard to each member’s experience and expertise in relation to specific healthcare topics.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Peeple, A Cautionary Tale About Rating People

Peeple A Cautionary Tale About Rating People

The announcement, in late September, of an unreleased app (called Peeple) that aims to allow individuals to rate each other triggered a huge media frenzy (both in traditional media and social media) about the toxic nature of this app.

Peeple, as described by its founders, will give the possibility to rate individuals, with a 1-to-5 star rating system, and provide review from three different angles: personal, professional, or romantic. The traditional media and social media reaction was extremely negative, they deem the app a total disaster that will take cyberbullying and harassment to a whole new level. Critics from all over the digital world pointed out how the app will do more harm than good. Peeple’s founders got death threats; their social media accounts were hacked; their private photos were leaked. At some point, even cops and the cybercrimes unit were involved.

Peeple’s founders for sure made some glaring mistakes both from a design and communication standpoint. Talking about an app that deals with sensitive issues, such as privacy and reputation, before getting any feedback from potential users and iterating to build a product people would love is a misstep of Everest proportions. Discussing in major media about features that, if they are not put in context, would alarm any sensible user (like the impossibility to opt-out from the service and the absence of any form of consent from those subjected to rating and evaluation) is another blunder.

But at the same time, we were surprised by the fact that this app was unanimously vilified, the main argument being we cannot rate people or judge their personality and behavior. But the fact of the matter is that the digital world is full of services that allow to rate people and judge their traits and behaviors. Actually all the services related to the so-called sharing economy (you know Uber, Airbnb and the likes) include comprehensive rating systems. More than that, it is an essential feature to foster trust and reputation among their communities and exclude dishonest and ill-mannered individuals.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Our Most Popular Posts

Our Most Popular Posts

It has been 3 years since we launched this blog. More than 20 posts have been published, touching on a wide range of topics in relation to trust and reputation in the digital world. While we are looking forward to continue to provide thoughts, analysis, and studies’ findings about trust and reputation in the ever growing digital world, we would like to highlight in this post the most popular posts of the past 3 years.

1. The 10 Commandments of Digital Exodus (June 2013)

2. Rating the Raters (September 2012)

3. Digital Genome Sequencing (March 2014)

4. The Trust Quadrant (October 2014)

5. Humans, Trust and Reputation (October 2012)

6. Trust, Reputation and Digital Dualism (Decenber 2013)

7. Can We Trust the Crowd Miners? (April 2013)

8. The Rise of the Digital Advisor (February 2015)

Many thanks to all our readers,

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Building the Internet of Trusted Things

Building the Internet of Trusted Things

The past few years have seen a steady increase in the number of devices connected to the Internet, ushering in the era of the Internet of Things.  Devices as diverse as cars, TVs, electric meters, home alarms, and door locks, pace makers and insulin pumps are connecting to the Internet.  According to Gartner, approximately 3.9 billion connected devices were in use in 2014 and this figure is expected to rise to 25 billion by 2020.

The purpose of the Internet of Things is to offer consumers innovative products to enhance their lives.  For example, smart electric meters can use information provided by a smart grid and turn on/off selected appliances to optimize energy cost savings.  Smart homes may rely on smart locks that give the possibility to use a smart phone at a distance to open/close doors and windows.  Connected cars have the ability to record and report diagnostic information, and arrange appointments at repair-shops when needed.  Connected pacemakers allow monitoring patients in their homes rather than in medical facilities.

The potential economic impact of the Internet of Things is huge.  It will be $4 trillion to $11 trillion a year by 2025 says a report published by McKinsey Global Institute.

The flip side of the rise of Internet augmented products is that the Internet of Things has glaring security weaknesses.  In other words, connected devices can be easily hacked.  A recent HP Research study reported that the average Internet-connected consumer device has a staggering 25 security vulnerabilities and 70% have at least one such vulnerability.  Hackers can take advantage of those vulnerabilities to launch cyberattacks aimed at taking control of devices, stealing sensitive information, or disrupting essential services.  For example, a cyberattack could take control a home’s smart electric meter in order to cut off power supply to security mechanisms and make a burglary attack a lot easier.  As for cars, they are becoming more susceptible to cyberattacks because they are increasingly computerized.  Hackers could for instance take full control of a car or disrupt essential car operations with potentially disastrous effects.  A recent report by two security researchers compiled a list of most hackable cars, and surprisingly, world-renowned cars such as the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and 2014 Toyota Prius are among the most hackable.  In the case of the Prius, the car’s radio and Bluetooth systems share a network with the steering, brakes, and tire pressure monitor.

In order to build a more secure Internet of Things, a comprehensive security framework should be devised.  The framework has to be designed in a way that takes into account the fact that most of the devices that form the Internet of Things are embedded systems with limited resources (especially storage space and processing power).  The security framework needs to address the following issues:

privacy threats: here, determining the amount of sensitive information that needs to be collected is the core issue;
lack of authentication and authorization: mechanisms such as passwords of sufficient complexity and length, certificate-based authentication and, in the long run, smartphone-based biometric authentication are essential to address this issue;
insufficient confidentiality and integrity: here, encryption, lightweight firewalls and rules-based filtering play crucial roles;
insecure software and firmware: it is of primary importance that connected devices’ software and firmware are securely updated on a regular basis which implies that the devices should be designed in a way that enable software and firmware downloads and an extensive use of encryption.

In summary, the Internet of Things has a shining future; it has the potential to transform the lives of billions of people around the globe.  But in order to realize its potential, it has to overcome major challenges and addressing cyberattack threats is one of those challenges.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

The Rise of the Digital Advisor

The Rise of the Digital Advisor

As the digital exodus is now well underway, a growing number of digital services offer the possibility to benefit from the reviews, opinions, and insights of knowledgeable people.  Indeed, all types of review sites (general-purpose review sites such as Yelp, specialized review sites such RateMDs, individual-oriented review sites like Dunwello, etc.) are more and more attracting reliable, insightful reviewers.  Those reviewers form an ever-strengthening community of digital advisors.  Their individual and collective knowledge and intelligence give the consumer a valuable, instantly available, continuously updated source of advice that covers virtually all topics.

Moreover, an increasing number of paid services, like JustAnswer, offer the possibility to submit online questions to advisors selected through a stringent vetting process.

In addition, digital genome sequencing, that is the ability to analyze and interpret digital footprints left by our daily activities in the digital world, will be increasingly used to detect, on a topic-basis, competent, reliable advisors.  Specialized services, such as Trustiser, will use digital genome sequencing techniques to offer the consumer the opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge and wisdom of those trusted advisors.

As a result of this major shift, the consumer intelligence is improving dramatically.  In other words, consumers now have the possibility to make informed critical or lifestyle-driven decisions, solve efficiently problems or discover otherwise unseen opportunities, in relation to a wide range of themes such as healthcare, home life, outdoor life, travel, financial services, and education.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

The Trust Quadrant

Trust Quadrant

In order to give a valuable insight into the underpinnings of the notion of trust among humans, we came up with what we call the Trust Quadrant. There are 2 dimensions involved in defining the Trust Quadrant: the first dimension is the sincerity of a given individual, the second dimension is the competence, i.e. the expertise and/or experience, of the considered individual. The combination of those 2 dimensions positions each individual, with regard to a given topic, within one of the four quadrants.

Distrust arises when an individual’s sincerity and competence, as perceived by another individual or a group of individuals, are both low. Conversely, trust exists when an individual’s sincerity and competence are perceived as high. Trust is of primary importance, it has an impact on the brain that encourages risk-taking and decision-making.

When an individual’s sincerity is high but his competence is low or unknown, the sentiment that prevails among the people interacting with him is the belief in his goodwill. Contrariwise, when an individual’s sincerity, as sensed by others, is low but his competence is high, the sentiment that prevails among those who interact with him is the belief in competence. When belief in goodwill and/or belief in competence are low, willingness to take risk is low too.

It has to be stressed that there is a third dimension, because the Trust Quadrant has to be applied per topic, which means that for different topics, an individual can belong to different quadrants. For example, an individual can be trusted for financial services and distrusted with regard to healthcare products.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Can We Trust Our Browsers?

Can We Trust Our Browsers

In recent years, a new browser-based tracking technique has emerged. This technique is called device fingerprinting. It collects identifying information, such as screen size, browser plug-ins, time zone, and set of installed system fonts, which allows to uniquely characterize almost each computer on the Internet. An experiment conducted in 2010 revealed that tracking various browser attributes was sufficient to identify an overwhelming majority of the computers surfing the web; and if we posit that in the vast majority of cases, each individual operates his/her own computer, then device fingerprinting leads to the possibility to assign a unique identifier to each user and track users’ activities. The ultimate goal is to build up a specific profile for each individual on the network.

Device fingerprinting services are either deployed by individual companies to track their users or offered by specialized fingerprinting providers such as Bluecava and ThreatMetrix. They use an effective and stealth technique that is not based on cookies, but rather on scripts hidden in advertisements and/or unsolicited plug-ins downloaded and installed when a user downloads and installs software that has nothing to do with fingerprinting. The scripts and plug-ins quietly gather information about the host “computer/browser” even when a user checks “Do Not Track” in his/her browser’s preferences.

On the upside, device fingerprinting is very useful to improve the security of web-based services by fostering efficient web-scale identification systems that can be used to thwart online frauds and scams. On the downside, the technique is so precise in determining the profile of each individual that it raises concerns about its impact on personal privacy, especially when the profile established through fingerprinting is combined with the trail of information we leave behind while frequenting digital arenas that are beyond the reach of browsers, such as social networks, smartphone-based ecosystems, etc.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

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