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Privacy Decision-Making

Researchers: Lorrie Cranor, Alessandro Acquisti

Research Area: Privacy Protection

Cross Cutting Thrusts: Usable Privacy and Security


Scope: While most people claim to be very concerned about their privacy, they do not consistently take actions to protect it. Web retailers detail their information practices in their privacy policies, but most of the time this information remains invisible to consumers. Our research focuses on understanding how individuals make privacy-related decisions and in finding ways to make privacy information more usable to consumers. CUPS researchers are developing a “nutrition label” for privacy and working on several P3P-related projects. We are developing enhancements to the Privacy Bird P3P user agent that will make it easier to use and allow it to be ported to new platforms. We also extended a prototype Privacy Bird search engine, and now make it available as the Privacy Finder search service. We are conducting user studies to see how the use of this search service impacts user behavior. Finally, we are using an automated system to gather data from P3P enabled web sites to gain a better understanding of the state of web site privacy practices.

Outcomes: We developed and tested Privacy Finder search engine and privacy nutrition label. We demonstrated that when privacy information is made readily accessible in search results, people will pay more to shop at sites with better privacy policies. We found that large numbers of websites that use computer-readable P3P compact privacy policies are misrepresenting their privacy practices, thus misleading users and rendering privacy protection tools ineffective.

Technical Report: Token Attempt: The Misrepresentation of Website Privacy Policies through the Misuse of P3P Compact Policy Tokens