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Scalable Policy-awarE linked data arChitecture for prIvacy, trAnsparency and compLiance

Eva Schlehahn

01 January 2017

31 December 2019

EC funded project

What is SPECIAL about?

We are a 3-year (January 2017–December 2019) research and innovation project funded under the Horizon 2020 ICT-18-2016 Big Data PPP: privacy-preserving Big Data technologies. To support GDPR compliance and a respectful treatment of personal information, we develop technology that:


  • supports the acquisition of user consent at collection time and the recording of both data and metadata (consent, policies, event data, context) according to legal and user-specified policies;
  • facilitates privacy-aware, secure workflows with usage/access control and auditability to enhance transparency and compliance verification;
  • demonstrates robustness in terms of performance, scalability and security ;
  • provides a dashboard with feedback and control features that makes data collection and processing comprehensible and manageable for data subjects, controllers, and processors alike.

These features are deployed and tested with a number of use cases reflecting real-world business scenarios.


Who is our project designed for?

The outcome of the SPECIAL-project will be for the direct benefit of data subjects, as well as business enabler for data controllers. The specification and technology proposed by SPECIAL will allow the acquisition of user consent at collection time and the recording of both data and metadata and make this information available at all stages of processing. Specifying purposes in the database and establishing an underlying communication link allows data controllers to handle personal data in accordance with the legal provisions and to demonstrate transparency by offering all relevant choices to their customers.

Therefore the SPECIAL-stakeholders are:

  • Data subjects in their roles as customers, citizens, app-users, subscribers etc.,
  • Data controllers in particular big data scientists, technology companies and operational data owners, etc.,
  • Big data scientists and companies
  • Entities providing infrastructure or software for data controllers that must be able to show that their product’s GDPR-compatibility
  • Policy makers, parliamentarians and the data protection community may provide the necessary encouragement to deploy the solutions
  • Entities interested in providing data protection relevant information to data subjects based on the user interaction research driven within SPECIAL

The architecture

SPECIAL uses the Big Data Europe Integrator Platform of the EU-funded project Big Data Europe (BDE, https://www.big-data-europe.eu/) and the know-how of the EC FP7 programme project PrimeLife (http://primelife.ercim.eu/). BDE focuseds on cross-community big data management and building innovative products or services with semantically interoperable, large-scale data assets, while PrimeLife addressed privacy and identity management in future networks and services of the digital world.

The Integrator Platform enables deployment of common big data technologies with minimal effort and forms the basis of the SPECIAL platform. It does not impose any restrictions on the data processing components with respect to the data being processed, how it is processed and how it is being disseminated.

Within SPECIAL, this platform will be extended and adapted to create a system compliant with the European data protection framework. This encompasses e.g., the protection of personal data by effective data handling policies.

The core features of SPECIAL

Our vision is to reconcile Big Data and personal data protection via an innovative data handling solution and a transparency framework. We develop this technology to ease industry’s difficulties with GDPR compliance and to enable respectful treatment of personal information. This introduces new ways of user interaction on data protection, fostering trusted customer relationships. Thus, we

  • build a big data architecture to handle linked data for privacy policies, as well as deploy scalable, queryable encryption
  • develop advanced user (data subject) interaction and control features
  • integrate the results of the Big Data Europe and the PrimeLife projects, while advancing the state of the art of privacy-enhancing technologies
  • include ethical principles, EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements, and consider a future ePrivacy Regulation.

Our project results

SPECIAL has produced a large number of project deliverables. All public deliverables can be found here:

All of our SPECIAL publications (such as papers & presentations, studies, essays, and other dissemination material) can be found here: Overview of SPECIAL publications

As a EU H2020-funded project, SPECIAL aims at making its research and development work publicly accessible. Therefore, our project resources, such as prototypes, ontologies and vocabularies, code repository, benchmark, platform demonstrators, UI mockups and the SPECIAL-K reference Architecture can be found here: SPECIAL Resources

(The above represents the status as of November 2019)

Our next steps

The project follows an agile approach. Based on the specification and the legal and technical requirements provided by the interdisciplinary team, our industry partners finalize the second phase of planning and definition of their use case pilots. This is followed by intensified implementation work for these pilots. Feedback loops allow further developments of the big data policy engine and insights to the user interaction, while we keep an eye on further legislative developments, such as the upcoming ePrivacy-Regulation. Our website: https://www.specialprivacy.eu/ Our Twitter: https://twitter.com/specialprivacy/


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