The National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted $2.7 million to three leading CyLab researchers for a five-year study on "Nudging Users Toward Privacy."
Alessandro Acquisti, principle investigator, along with Lorrie Cranor and Norman Sadeh, will study, design, and test systems that anticipate, and sometimes even exploit, cognitive and behavioral biases that hamper users’ privacy and security decision making. They aim to develop a scientific body of knowledge, and empirically test the design of privacy technologies that nudge users without restricting their choices.
This NSF-funded work will include conducting foundational studies to understand user privacy needs, preferences, and behaviors; developing "nudging" technologies to support and ameliorate privacy decision-making in these domains; and evaluating the effectiveness of these technologies in countering users’ biases and increasing their overall welfare and satisfaction. The study will introduce a novel approach to the design of privacy technologies and policies, leveraging both ongoing work on usable privacy and security and lessons from behavioral decision research and, in particular, soft paternalism.
"Nudging Users Toward Privacy" is an ambitious, multi-disciplinary effort, which is focused on three exemplary application domains and builds on the complementary skills and expertise of these three CyLab researchers, extending their research in a novel direction.
Looking toward the potential impact of the research, Acquisti, Cranor and Sadeh see several benefits:
"Helping users avoid mistakes, decrease regret, and achieve more rapidly the desired balance between sharing and protecting personal information in these areas has clear, and significant, societal importance. However, our research also aims at advancing the scientific understanding of what makes privacy decision making difficult, what influences user behavior on this area, and how to build systems that influence that behavior in a desirable manner. Therefore, our results can inform the work of privacy and security technologists, providing insights and methods that go beyond better interfaces to revisit the strategies and assumptions underlying those systems. In addition, by exposing conditions under which technology alone may not be sufficient to assist human decision-making, this research can actively inform the work of policy makers. Finally, our approach can be straightforwardly extended to the field of information security, since security decisions, at the individual and corporate levels, are affected by biases similar to those that affect privacy decision making."
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