One of the most serious concerns today is the preservation of privacy when using internet and mobile applications. This concern has given rise to an increasing appearance of online tools affirming that they can offer certain privacy-preventive functionality, such as secure communication, protection against tracking, or anonymous browsing. However, in many cases the functionality of these tools is not as expected. Privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) that fail to offer what they promise can be very dangerous, as the false sense of protection can compromise the users’ personal data and negatively affect or even put in harm’s way their personal life.
ENISA conducted under its 2015 work programme a study in the area of PETs for the protection of online privacy (online privacy tools). The report is addressed to all related stakeholders, such as the PETs industry, academia, data protection authorities, and the general public, for instance internet or mobile users who would like to use specific tools for the preservation of their privacy and personal data.
The objectives of the study are:
a) to define the current level of information and guidance that is provided to the general public, and
b) to provide a proposal for an assessment model for online privacy tools that could bring more assurance in their use, supporting their wider adoption by internet and mobile users.
In particular the study comprises of three parts, providing:
- A review of existing web portals promoting the use of online privacy tools by the general public.
- A proposed methodology for evaluating the reliability and usability of online privacy tools based on a set of predefined criteria.
- A pilot evaluation and comparative presentation of PETs in the area of anti-tracking browser extensions.
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