Topic presentation 2: ”Why is privacy management so hard?”

Not many days go by without news on possible breaches of privacy in the online environment, most notably in connection with usage and management of social networking tools such as facebook or similar. Yet as early as in 2010, the privacy violating problems of these novel ways to interact with other people in the Internet were discussed in length over popular media, meaning that these problems had by then become widely known and acknowledged. One example of such an article in wide-spread media is the article on New York Times, entitled “How Privacy Vanishes Online” by Steve Lohr, published almost exactly two years ago March 16, 2010. However, till today these problems with managing online privacy remain with us.

In this article, Lohr presents the question “If a stranger came up to you on the street, would you give him your name, Social Security number and e-mail address?” and goes on to wonder, why people often dole out all kinds of personal information on the Internet that allows such identifying data to be deduced, when they would probably never do this in the real world. As the outcome of such revelations, services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr have become “oceans of personal minutiae” – birthdates etc, – and yes, even social security numbers. One reason for why this happens is ignorance – people do not understand how innocent-seeming information can be misused. Another reason is that managing user privacy with multiple settings is in fact quite a difficult task. In another article published May 2010, it was pointed out that at that point, facebook privacy management included 50 settings with over 170 options.

”Why is privacy management so hard?” It seems clear that maintaining one’s privacy online can indeed be tricky. On basis of recent work in this area, discuss these challenges and the current aims to tackle them.

Related articles from the New York Times that could serve as good background information and motivation for the problem addressed:

Anger Leads To Apology From Google About Buzz (February 15, 2010)
Critics Say Google Invades Privacy With New Service (February 13, 2010)
Party On, But No Tweets (August 9, 2009)
MEDIA CACHE; The Paradox of Privacy (July 13, 2009)

Scientific papers in this area:

I regretted the minute I pressed share”: A Qualitative Study of Regrets on Facebook
Yang W. et al, SOUPS 2011

Privacy: Is There An App For That?
King, J et al, SOUPS 2011

Eyeing your Exposure: Quantifying and Controlling Information Sharing for Improved Privacy
Schlegel, R et al, SOUPS 2011

In last year’s ACM CHI, there were not only papers in this topical area, but a whole workshop on Networked Privacy

Other sources, access from campus network: Proceedings of ACM CHI, Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS), ACM CSCW, New Security Paradigms Workshop (NSPW), ACM GROUP, USEC’07, UPSEC’08 and USEC’12 as well as from IEEE explore such as IEEE Security & Privacy conference & magazine, Elsevier Computer & Security magazine, or any journal in HCI that might have an article on usable security.