PVNets (Privacy Value Networks)

Link: PVNets project homepage Aims

PVNets aims to enable organisations to take a more effective approach to collecting personal information from customers. It is designed to help commercial and government organisations take an evidence based, value focussed approach to personal information, and achieve better outcomes than would be possible with a data-land-grab. PVNets is a collaborative project between both academic and business institutions.

Our agenda is to support UK businesses in becomming world leaders in the area of trustworthy products, systems and services.

Meeting this challenge will involve both tool and methodology development, extensive field work and naturalistic experiments.

Our Approach

Privacy is difficult to research, because stakeholders will often not wish to disclose those things which are of most interest to researchers, so PVNets will be making methodological advances - novel methods and advances in existing techniques - in order to collect some of the data on which our conclusions will be based.

In order to make use of this data, PVNets will be extending Value Network Analysis to encompass costs of collecting personal information as well as benefits - there are situations where attempting to collect personal data may be detrimental for stakeholders, for example asking for a phone number on a web form has lead to extensive customer drop out, and so loss of opportunity for an organisation and for the possible customers. We will develop a software based tool to help organisations rigorously and quantiatively model which data to collect to maximise value.

Case studies

The PVNets institutions will be providing testbeds for these methods and tools through a comprehensive range of case studies. We will be investigating:

Financial services - issues around personal information for people with difficult credit histories that have lead to financial exlusion. We aim to design a privacy enhanced financial product that will provide neccesary services for the financially exluded, and business opportunities for service providers.

Mobile based services for familiy, community and customer relations - issues around location and status reporting. Duties of care to more vulnerable members of families will involve difficult balances to be struck between privacy and disclosure. Similarly, members of communities will have differing goals and information requirements. PVNets will support families, communities and businesses in navigating stakeholders' sometimes conflicting agendas.

Sensor enhanced social networks - the next generation of social networks that update users' status reports with information about the their environment - sensors in handsets will be able to aspects of users' physical activity (using accelerometers), physical location (using GPS & wifi) and environment (using cameras, possibly microphones). They will be able to report on users' social environment too, using wireless networking technologies to poll and identify local devices, including others people's mobile handsets. The technology will be implemented and studied at two pilot sites.

Government - issues around verification of identity. Working with the UK's Identity and Passport Service we will collect data around Biographical Interviews required of some applicants for UK Passports, and around the Critical Workers Identity Cards that airside airport staff will soon be required to hold in pilot trials of the UK National Identity Scheme. Stakeholders from all parts of the value network will be sampled.

Healthcare - issues around health, gender and cultural, religeous, ethnic, sexual identities and relations, and community and social understandings and norms in relation to particular illnesses. Patients and staff at HIV treatment centres will contribute data illuminating the mediating effect of these issues on privacy concerns and resulting staff and patients' behaviour, including take up of services.

Training Workshop

PVNets' methodology related work involved running a privacy methodology training workshop, on 23rd and 24th March, 2009.


The project is funded by EPSRC grant EP/G00260/1 with support from the ESRC and TSB.

This page was last modified on 06 Jan 2011.

UCL Researchers


  • University of Bath
  • University of Oxford
  • University of St. Andrews
  • Consult Hyperion
  • British Telecom


2008 - 2011