Little Syster: the first privacy trust index for digital services

© 2021 Little Syster

© 2021 Little Syster

Giving back to citizens the control of their private life in the face of digital technology: this is the mission of the French company Little Syster. Launched in 2020, it uses a technology based on artificial intelligence that was developed at the LSIR EPFL laboratory headed by Prof. K. Aberer.

As scandals regarding personal data abuse by companies follow one another -such as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica affair - it is urgent to give power back to the users. "We want to participate in the development of a responsible digital society," explains Corinne Guédon Lepeuple, Managing Director of Little Syster. "We are convinced that citizens must be able to exercise the same rights and freedoms online as they are accustomed to exercising offline. »

The solution offered by Little Syster? A privacy trust index for digital services, which evaluates the various players in the digital ecosystem and aims to inform and reassure citizens in their relationship with companies. Users can download an application developed by Little Syster to scan the services they use and obtain a score for them. 

Discovering virtuous or risky digital services

"We have developed a unique reference system. It is based on 54 criteria among 4 themes, that have been identified by using the European legal framework and the expectations of citizens in terms of privacy," says Christophe Dupuy, CTO.
In practice, an indexing engine will scan websites and applications to analyze the ways in which a company informs consumers and whether or not it obtains their consent. Users must, for example, be informed about trackers and cookies in a clear manner. Similarly, an assessment is made to determine how companies collect data, how safe the information collected are and what their data sharing policies are.
"This information is then compared with our benchmark to generate an overall grade - ranging from A to E - for each digital service analyzed," he adds.

Polisis, a tool based on artificial intelligence.

Little Syster has entered into a license agreement with the EPFL to use Polisis, an AI-based program from the EPFL. Co-developed by Hamza Harkous, Polisis enables users to get quick, easy-to-read summaries of websites’ data protection policies, and is already used by the US-based search engine DuckDuckGo. "Thanks to Polisis we can go faster in our analysis and ensure a scalable solution for the future", explains Christophe Dupuy.

A global approach that engages companies and institutions

Little Syster's approach doesn't stop there. It is part of a global movement to change practices. "We want to encourage companies and institutions towards best practices when it comes to the personal data privacy of their users and their choices of technology partners," emphasizes Corinne Guédon Lepeuple. "Our ambition is to nurture an entire ecosystem by working closely with legislative bodies, companies as well as citizens. »

In terms of financing, the company's company’s funds are twofold: "For our launch phase, we have two ways to finance our approach”, shares Corinne Guédon Lepeuple. Companies can mandate Little Syster for a scoring audit. This feedback is intended to enable them to develop and improve their privacy practices. Shareholders are the other source of capital. "Today, 98% of them are natural persons. »

Today Little Syster’s app is accessible in private beta and will be available in public beta by end of June. The release of the application is expected for the end of the year.


Author: Leila Ueberschlag