HDR Scholarship - Privacy and Adoption of Verifiable Credentials (CSIRO Industry PhD Program)

Applications now open. There are two PhD scholarships available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Privacy and Adoption of Verifiable Credentials (CSIRO Industry PhD Program)'.

Project Supervisor

Additional Supervision

Dr Surya Nepal (CSIRO Data 61)

John Ellis (BUPA)


Melbourne Burwood Campus and Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

There are two PhD scholarships available.The ability to prove one's identity has long been an integral part of ensuring service delivery, civic participation, and inclusion across private and public sectors. The concept of Verifiable Credentials (VC) has emerged as a viable alternative to federated identity systems and can offer greater levels of control and ownership to users over their Digital Identity (DID). However, the inability of users to make optimal decisions in relation to use of VC leads to privacy risks such as linkability and singling out and lack of adoption.

The CSIRO Industry PhD Program (iPhD) is a four-year research training program that focuses on applied research and working with the industry sector. It aims to produce the next generation of innovation leaders with the skills to work at the interface of research and industry in Australia.

The Program includes:

  • admission to a university PhD program with a structured professional development and training program
  • a Project Expense and Development package of $13,000 p.a. over four years
  • an in-business industry engagement component with BUPA
  • supervision by CSIRO, an industry partner, and the host university (Deakin)

Successful students are subject to the policies, procedures, and guidelines of Deakin university in addition to the CSIRO Industry PhD Program terms and conditions. Students will receive a standard PhD on completion.

Project aim

Long-term privacy with verifiable credentials
Verifiable credentials (VC) have emerged as the future of digital identity and is attractive for the provision of digital health services in a secure and privacy-preserving manner. As a key pillar of self-sovereign identity, VCs providing users with more control over their personal information, enabling selective disclosure of attributes to access services and prove one’s identity. This ensures that digital health services can be provided in compliance with emerging privacy regulations such as the general data protection regulation (GDPR), consumer data right (CDR), health information portability and protection act (HIPAA) and others – specifically by adhering to the principle of data minimisation. However, selective disclosure does not intrinsically guarantee user privacy especially in the long-term – as user’s choices/behaviours over a period can be used to link their transactions and single them out.
To address this challenge, the project will adopt an information theoretic approach to investigate the challenge of achieving long-term privacy with verifiable credentials and guiding user decision-making.

Useability Framework for Verifiable Credentials
Verifiable Credentials (VC) is an emerging decentralised identity management (IdM) solution designed to address the privacy and security challenges arising from traditional IdM solutions. Benefits to both identity providers and end users from the application of VC is well established in the literature, however real-life use cases of VC technologies remain troublingly low. Preliminary research suggests that this discrepancy between the benefits provided, and lack of adoption of VC is due to usability challenges, specifically their perceived lack of usability. Given users’ natural preference for simplicity and ease of use, there is a general tendency in the industry to avoid requiring users to perform complex operations, learn the extra subject matter, or make difficult decisions.

Therefore, the primary aim of this project is to examine the usability of current solutions and adopt a mixed methods approach to develop a usability framework to provide guidance for the development of highly usable verifiable credentials solutions.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Friday 10th February 2023


This scholarship is available over 4 years.

  • Stipend of $45,000 per annum tax exempt

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • not have previously completed a PhD
  • be able to commence the Program in the year of the offer;
  • be prepared to be located at the project location(s) that Deakin university has approved and, if required, comply with the university’s external enrolment procedures.

How to apply

Please email an expression of interest, CV and all transcripts to CSRI. The shortlisted applicants will be interviewed and the nominated applicant will be invited to submit a formal application. Please note, some projects may still be in contracting phases and there is no guarantee for the position until the formal collaboration agreement between the parties is in place. Nominated applicants will be notified as to when this occurs.

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Prof Robin Doss

Prof Robin Doss
Email Prof Robin Doss
+61 3 925 17305