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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W032368/1
Title: Protecting public-facing professionals and their dependents online (3PO)
Principal Investigator: Bayerl, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Mueller-Johnson, Dr KU Coleman, Dr C Becker, Dr I
Aston, Dr EV Akhgar, Professor B Whitfield, Dr K
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Home Office Humberside Police Lancashire Constabulary
Metropolitan Police Service Police Scotland Police Service of Northern Ireland
South Yorkshire Police
Department: College of Business, Technology & Eng
Organisation: Sheffield Hallam University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2022 Ends: 31 March 2025 Value (£): 2,794,599
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Dec 2021 Protecting Citizens Online 2 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Police officers are public-facing professionals. This means they operate in the public eye with at times dramatic repercussions for their private lives (e.g., 'trial by social media', unwanted identification, online harassment and threats to themselves or their families). While this is often framed as a way to 'redress police injustices' or as a democratising potential of 'watching back', it threatens officers' social standing as well as mental and physical health outside of their professional role. Their loved ones (spouses, children, other close family members) are involved directly and immediately, either because they are also targeted or because they have to live with fears and accept restrictions to their online participation in order to safeguard their police family members. Due to this, public-facing professionals police personnel (LPFPs) and their dependents clearly face strong challenges and risks to their rights and opportunities as citizens online. 3PO takes the unusual and pioneering step to re-focus the theme of protecting citizens online to the law enforcement domain, which is often treated as the one 'citizens need protection from'. However, at present neither the extent of online risks for officers, let alone their dependents, is known nor do credible plans exists for safeguarding this citizen group online.

The 3PO project will address these gaps through a user-centred approach that will deliver a series of targeted outcomes. Firstly, 3PO will create in-depth knowledge about the extent, nature, drivers, mechanisms and consequences of online risks and harms for LPFPs and their dependents. This will lead to important refinements in current understandings of privacy and consent as collective concepts that need to be negotiated in (family/professional) groups and create a taxonomy of LPFP-specific online risks and harms. A major focus will be on the co-creation of three user-focused tools for LPFPs and dependents for reactive and proactive protection: (1) a Harm Reporting Application for LPFPs and/or their dependents to report incidents, problematic events or concerns to instigate support and protection measures, (2) a Vulnerability Assessment ("self-check") App to assess their own online presence and account settings to identify potential risks, (3) an AI-based harm mitigation and risk assessment platform for police organisations consisting of AI-based analysis capabilities and a dashboard for the visualisation of reactive analysis and proactive monitoring of individual and organisational harm profiles. Thirdly, 3PO will produce design and policy recommendations and specialised police training and awareness campaigns.

The project will do so by utilising a highly experienced consortium of applied and policy researchers from Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Napier led by the globally connected security research Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence and Organised Crime Research (CENTRIC) at Sheffield Hallam University. To guarantee outcomes are co-developed with and fully pertinent for our target group, 3PO comprises six UK police forces (Metropolitan Police, Police Scotland, Police Service Northern Ireland, South Yorkshire Police, Lancashire Police, Humberside Police) and the Home Office as active research partners.

3PO results will benefit societal groups outside police and law enforcement, as knowledge and products transfer to other public-facing professions faced with the same challenge such politicians, teachers, emergency services, NHS staff, journalists, amongst others. Hence, 3PO's results and products will be relevant for a large number of groups crucial for societal functioning and resilience.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.shu.ac.uk