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All About Trust and Reputation in the Digital World

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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. 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)

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)

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)

Digital Genome Sequencing – An Efficient Way to Manage Trust and Reputation

Digital Genome Sequencing

As we go about our everyday lives, working, trading, playing, training, etc., we leave behind digital traces that collectively form our digital genome.  Digital genome sequencing aims to analyze and interpret digital footprints left by our daily activities.  It uses big data tools and methods to extract crucial insights and decipher relevant patterns. 

Of particular interest is digital genome sequencing as a means to manage trust and reputation in an unprecedented way. Indeed, properly monitoring and analyzing the digital genome of an individual is an efficient approach to assess the trust and reputation that can be placed in him with regard to various themes, in the same way that physical genome sequencing determines the physical quirks, characteristics and traits of an individual.

Digital genome sequencing to manage trust and reputation is at the intersection of computer science, social sciences, and statistics.  It analyzes activities and relations in digital arenas such as social networks, digital marketplaces, and forums.  It takes into account academic degrees, career paths, professional records, and publications.  It uses geographic locations and interprets social and credit scores.  It tracks online individual and collaborative phony activities.

In this context, the biggest challenge will be dealing with individual privacy, but as the digital world is taking a bigger and bigger chunk of our lives, we will be more and more willing to trade some of our privacy for a substantial improvement in trust and reputation management among the participants in the increasingly critical digital life.    

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Crowdfunding, Keeping Digital Criminals at Bay

Crowdfunding Keeping Digital Criminals at Bay

As crowdfunding is gaining popularity as a means of raising money in the digital world, thanks to the rules under consideration by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the 2012 JOBS Act, trust and reputation management in relation to online collaborative funding is becoming a serious issue.  Indeed, both donation-based crowdfunding and investment-based crowdfunding attract digital criminals.

More precisely, donation-based crowdfunding services, provided by sites such as Kickstarter and Fundly, and investment-based crowdfunding services, provided by sites like AngelList and MicroVentures, are prone to:

  • digital scamming where scammers create fake projects to steal money from the backers.  In one case last year, one large crowdfunding site almost handed over $120,000 to a fake start-up.  There were more than 3,000 backers involved;
  • digital money-laundering where  “dirty” money coming from criminal activities is invested through equity, debt, or tax deductible donations.

In this context, proper trust and reputation management strategies should be implemented by crowdfunding sites.  In our view, an efficient trust and reputation strategy, that aims to detect fraudsters preemptively, has to combine:

  • human intelligence-based approaches that implement formal due diligence and vetting processes;
  • algorithmic-based approaches that automatically analyze the credentials provided by each participant,  monitor the participants’ activities and reputation in digital arenas such as social networks and digital marketplaces, and whenever possible check their track records within other crowdfunding sites. 

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Trust, Reputation and Digital Dualism

Trust, Reputation and Digital Dualism

Digital dualism is defined by social media theorist Nathan Jurgenson as the belief that the digital and physical worlds are separated, with the physical world being fully real and the digital world being virtual.  The digital dualists posit that the two worlds are engaged in a competition (for time, attention, participation, etc.). In their view, the physical and digital worlds are not complementary.  Nathan Jurgenson rejects digital dualism as a fallacy.  He argues that what happens in one world has direct effects in the other world.

We completely agree with Nathan Jurgenson.  From a reputation standpoint, what happens in the digital world has a direct impact on the reputation of individuals, businesses, and institutions in the physical world.  Indeed, over the past few years, we have witnessed countless situations where a bad reputation in the digital world wrecked careers, drove companies out of business and even led to appalling consequences such as the suicide of cyberbullied teenagers.

Conversely, what happens in the physical world has a great impact on trust and reputation in the digital world.  For example, customers’ experience (good or bad) with businesses and institutions in the physical world (e.g., restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, healthcare institutions, education institutions) translates into reputation in the digital world, thanks to online services such as those provided by review sites.    

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

Fake Reviews, the Plague of Rating Services

Fake Reviews The Plague of Rating Services

Once again, Yelp is  in the news for fake reviews.  This time around, it is a mattresses and furniture  store in La Mesa, California.  “This business created a dozen or so accounts on Yelp from the same IP address (their IP address) which they used to create fake reviews of their own business,” said Vince Sollitto, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Yelp.  “The business then used those accounts to message people on Yelp offering to pay $25 by PayPal or mail for a five star vote,” Sollitto said.

Yelp Consumer Alert

As outlined in a previous post in this blog, fake ratings, along with the lack of models to manage trust placed in raters, haunt existing rating services and are  major issues undermining their credibility.  These issues should be addressed urgently, as more and more people rely on rating services to make increasingly important decisions.  We are of the opinion that these issues have to be addressed by combining a computational approach with a human controlling effort in order to substantially improve the overall trustworthiness of rating services, and this is what Trustiser is all about.

Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)

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