Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Miriam Capretz


The ability to collaborate has always been vitally important to businesses and enterprises. With the availability of current networking and computing power, the creation of Collaborative Working Environments (CWEs) has allowed for this process to occur anytime over any geographical distance. Sharing information between individuals through collaborative environments creates new challenges in privacy protection for organizations and the members of organizations. This thesis confronts the problems when attempting to protect the personal private information of collaborating individuals.

In this thesis, a privacy-by-policy approach is taken to addressing the issue of protecting private information within collaborative environments. A privacy-by-policy approach to privacy protection provides collaborating individuals with notice and choice surrounding their private information, in order to provide an individual with a level of control over how their information is to be used. To this end, a collaborative privacy architecture for providing privacy within a collaborative environment is presented. This architecture uses ontologies to express the static concept and relation definitions required for privacy and collaboration. The collaborative privacy architecture also contains a Collaborative Privacy Manager (CPM) service which handles changes in dynamic collaborative environments. The goals of this thesis are to provide privacy mechanisms for the non-client centric situation of collaborative working environments. This thesis also strives to provide privacy through technically enforceable and customizable privacy policies. To this end, individual collaborators are provided with access, modification rights, and transparency through the use of ontologies built into the architecture. Finally, individual collaborators are provided these privacy protections in a way that is easy to use and understand and use.

A collaborative scenario as a test case is described to present how this architecture would benefit individuals and organizations when they are engaged in collaborative work. In this case study a university and hospital are engaged in collaborative research which involves the use of private information belonging to collaborators and patients from the hospital. This case study also highlights how different organizations can be under different sets of legislative guidelines and how these guidelines can be incorporated into the privacy architecture. Through this collaboration scenario an implementation of the collaborative privacy architecture is provided, along with results from semantic and privacy rule executions, and measurements of how actions carried out by the architecture perform under various conditions.