Feature: The Intrusion Index for Digital Privacy

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have been working on a system to improve technology that harvests data from social media by analysing how it may intrude upon individual privacy. The system, called an Intrusion Index, detects potentially private information in digital data so that this information can be deleted if necessary.

During a natural disaster there is a large volume of information shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Some of this information contains private data that could be used to identify individuals, although it is difficult to process all of this of data. Slándáil researchers have been looking at ways to better protect sensitive information, including encryption methods and anonymisation methods, and part of this includes a novel system that works on Named Entity Recognition.

A diagram showing how the intrusion index highlights named entities and then removes them when necessary.

By recognising named entities in the text, the system can then automatically remove these and log where they appear to avoid privacy issues.


Work on the Intrusion Index began in 2014 for Slándáil, and progress has been ongoing in testing and development. The index searches online text for named entities including place-names and people’s names, and creates a log when this data is detected in social media text. The system is now being tested on social media data. Read more