Exploring everyday privacy behaviors and misclosures

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Caine, Kelly Erinn
Fisk, Arthur D.
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As access to information changes with increased use of technology, privacy becomes an increasingly prominent issue among technology users. Privacy concerns should be taken seriously because they influence system adoption, the way a system is used, and may even lead to system disuse. Threats to privacy are not only due to traditional security and privacy issues; human factors issues such as unintentional disclosure of information also influence the preservation of privacy in technology systems. A dual pronged approach was used to examine privacy. First, a broad investigation of younger and older adults' privacy behaviors was conducted. The goal of this study was to gain a better understanding of privacy across technologies, to discover the similarities, and identify the differences in what privacy means across contexts as well as provide a means to evaluate current theories of privacy. This investigation resulted in a categorization of privacy behaviors associated with technology. There were three high level privacy behavior categories identified: avoidance, modification, and alleviatory behavior. This categorization furthers our understanding about the psychological underpinnings of privacy concerns and suggests that 1) common privacy feelings and behaviors exist across people and technologies and 2) alternative designs which consider these commonalities may increase privacy. Second, I examined one specific human factors issue associated with privacy: disclosure error. This investigation focused on gaining an understanding of how to support privacy by preventing misclosure. A misclosure is an error in disclosure. When information is disclosed in error, or misclosed, privacy is violated in that information not intended for a specific person(s) is nevertheless revealed to that person. The goal of this study was to provide a psychological basis for design suggestions for improving privacy in technology which was grounded in empirical findings. The study furthers our understanding about privacy errors in the following ways: First, it demonstrates for the first time that both younger and older adults experience misclosures . Second, it suggests that misclosures occur even when technology is very familiar to the user. Third, it revealed that some misclosure experiences result in negative consequences, suggesting misclosure is a potential threat to privacy. Finally, by exploring the context surrounding each reported misclosure, I was able to propose potential design suggestions that may decrease the likelihood of misclosure.
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