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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Crowdsourcing and Evaluation: Addressing Issues of Security


I look forward to talking to AECT colleagues on Thursday, 11/9/17 about accommodating crowdsourced data in social research and program evaluation. This conversation complements my future research agenda on using specialized Crowds for e-Learning evaluation.

Steve King smiling in black turtleneck shirt
Steve King aka Dr. Security
For issues about managing data and cybersecurity, I typically turn to the expertise of Steve King, Netswitch COO/CTO.  Learn more about Steve and read what I learned about security and engaging crowds in e-learning evaluation. Steve is happy to advise evaluators on issues of architectural requirements and cloud data security. Reach out to him on Twitter and LinkedIn @sking1145.

Platform Considerations for Human Intelligence Tasks
A secured Web conferencing platforms or a MOOC separate from a school’s network should support crowdsourced evaluation activities. A secure web-conferencing platform that imposes a bunch of restrictions is necessary to assure there is no easy avenue to compromise crowd evaluation tasks.
Assuming the crowd will be operating on an external host (cloud provider like AWS or Azure), the platform ought to be able to offer several services. Cloud providers typically offer content monitoring services so that up and downloads can be erased/destroyed at discretion. They also offer meta-data backup of the event itself so key information can be retained without leaving the crowd initiator or evaluator vulnerable to actual content being compromised.

Data Processing Considerations
The cloud service provider should be able to process large volumes of high velocity, structured (spreadsheets, databases) and unstructured (videos, images, audio) information as well as secure all of it. Even if an evaluator choses to run evaluation tasks in a local private cloud, any provider will offer this level of security.
But it is CRUCIAL to separate the cloud from the school’s network so that the crowd members can’t gain access to the school’s information or administrative network. If an evaluator can only run off the school’s system/network itself, she will be forced to set-up a sub-net at least and buy some hardware which could get more expensive than running the whole thing in a cloud. I would NOT advise an evaluator to try the latter option.

Credentials Considerations
In order to have a clearly defined crowd, crowd initiators must assign every member a credential and use whatever vetting process the evaluator would normally use to determine their appropriateness for participation. A SSN or EIN number matched with key locator information or student ID that can be validated could work.

Other Key Platform, Data, and Credential Considerations:
The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), while specifically related to government security requirements, provides compliance guidelines that will guarantee a secure web conferencing platform.
FedRAMP standards meet the baseline security controls set out by the National Institute of Standards.
A web conferencing platform should be FedRAMP compliant, and if not, should employ a layered security model of some sort with the following characteristics:
·         Gated access is one important characteristic. 
Gated access refers to the security options that manage entrance to and usage of virtual rooms employed by a web conferencing platform.  Gated access also helps prevent DDoS attacks
·         Platform, data, and credential restriction settings are important.
The ability to set restrictions on the hours a virtual room can be accessed minimizes the time in which sensitive and vulnerable information can be viewed and compromised. Crowdsource HITs initiators will want to be able to monitor remote users. The platform should allow the encryption of all information in transit. It should also allow session locks and the ability to terminate credentials so the crowdsource initiator can manage the platform access. Session locks allow evaluators to control who can enter a room at what time. Credential termination should be both manual and automatic based on a member leaving a room or meeting space where their credentials will no longer work for re-entry without a new login.
The platform should also let evaluators encrypt the event recordings, both at rest and in transit so that when a crowd initiator shares the contents with evaluation members unable to participate synchronously, only authorized members will have the encryption keys that will allow them access.
Initiators will want to be able to control and define roles and access privileges for the crowd which will establish the specific conditions by which a member can interact with a group or room. Role-based access control and dynamic privilege management are keys to this next layer. It is the evaluator’s ultimate control over who gets to enter which rooms, so she can decide that a member who needs to share information with a key group but should not be allowed direct access to that group can be assigned to a sub-conference room where a primary conference member can meet them, gain the information and return to the primary meeting.
Dynamic privilege management allows an evaluator to enable the retention of a member’s virtual identity while suspending their access privileges, so a member could have their privileges upgraded temporarily for a one-time event and then returned to their prior status. This could also facilitate evaluation requirements for working on individual or group e-learning tasks, and protecting small human intelligence tasks or HITs.

The conferencing platform should also allow a way to pair a person with unique authenticators that can customize their privileges.  This is done through individual access codes which are essentially the member’s fingerprints. Depending upon the privileges granted, individual access controls keep track of access rules and determine which sessions each member will be allowed to enter. This comes in handy for the identification of suspects following an information leak or inappropriate sharing of sensitive material.