Funded PhD Studentship - Multi-party Privacy in Social Media

Lancaster University School of Computing and Communications

Closing date: 15th May 2015

You are invited to apply for a funded 3.5-year PhD studentship to start in September 2015. If your application is successful, you will join Security Lancaster (an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research), be based at the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University and be supervised by Dr. Jose M. Such.

We are immensely proud of our postgraduate research community in Security Lancaster and the School of Computing and Communications, and of the internationally significant reputation they help us achieve. You will be encouraged to participate fully, targeting and presenting your work at international conferences, and you will have excellent opportunities to collaborate nationally and internationally through our academic partnerships and links with industry. Moreover, research in Computer Science at Lancaster University is consistently ranked top ten in the UK.


Hundreds of billions of items that are uploaded to Social Media are co-owned by multiple users, yet only the user that uploads the item is allowed to set its privacy settings (i.e., who can access the item). This is a massive and serious problem as users' privacy preferences for co-owned items usually conflict, so applying the preferences of only one party leads to privacy violations with severe consequences (e.g., users losing their jobs, being cyberstalked, etc.).

A solution to this problem is most timely as it has been highlighted as one of the most important problems to be addressed for an appropriate online privacy management. An example of this problem is a photo in which Alice and Bob are depicted together: how can they agree on the third parties they will share the photo with? Mainstream Social Media would only allow Alice (assuming she uploads the item) to set the privacy settings for the photo, but what if Bob would not like to share with some of Alice's friends?

Users are forced to try to resolve such conflicts manually (by e-mail, phone calls, etc.), which is exhausting because social networks are very dynamic and huge in scale. Even more importantly, the process of resolving conflicts manually starts too late, when one user has already posted the item and the privacy violation has occurred.

Academic Requirements

You should have (or be close to finish) a First Class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant discipline such as Computer Science, Software Engineering, or Communications. A First Class MSc/MSci in any of these areas would also be desirable.


The Scholarships provide support for PhD studies for a duration of 3 to 3.5 years and include a waiver of tuition fees (partial fee waiver for overseas students), a student maintenance grant (starting £14,000 per year tax free, with annual increments) and a training bursary of £800 per year (e.g., for attending summer schools).

The closing date for PhD applications to be considered for the studentship is 15th May 2015. If you are shortlisted, you will be contacted within a week of the application deadline.

How to apply

Send e-mail with the following documents to Dr. Jose M. Such (

  • Your CV (2 A4 pages max.)
  • Digital copies of Academic Transcripts for Undergraduate and where applicable Postgraduate degrees. If you have not yet received your final transcript please request an interim one from your University and list any pending modules you are currently taking (with any predicted grades you may have); any offer will be conditional on receipt of a full official transcript. Note that, for transcripts in languages other than English, a certified English translation will be required.
  • One personal statement (2 A4 pages max.) including, at least: (i) your interests in the topic of the PhD (1/2 page max); (ii) your knowledge about the topic (1/2 page max); (iii) and how you would approach/solve it (1 page max).


Please contact Dr. Jose M. Such ( for an informal discussion about the PhD studentship, for any enquiries you might have, or for further details.

If you intend to apply,please send as soon as possible an email to Dr. Jose M. Such, stating your interest and attaching documents 1 and 2 above (CV and Digital copies of Academic Transcripts).