Thursday, February 9, 2012

Latest CyLab Tech Report Explores Location-Sharing Privacy Preferences in U.S.A. and China

Latest CyLab Tech Report Explores Location-Sharing Privacy Preferences in U.S.A. and China

In the latest CyLab Tech Report (CMU-CyLab-12-003), CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Lab (CUPS) researchers Jason Hong and Norman Sadeh, and five co-authors have released the findings of "a three-week comparative study collecting location traces and location-sharing preferences from two comparable groups in the U.S. and China."

Here is an excerpt from the paper's conclusion:

Our study is the first and only an initial exploration into the differences of location-sharing preferences between participants of two countries. Despite the limitations mentioned in the previous subsection, our findings suggest that there are significant differences between the two groups of participants regarding location-sharing preferences. These results have several design implications for future location-sharing applications (LSA). First, LSAs should consider providing different levels of privacy assurance to users with different cultural backgrounds. So far, location sharing is still a relatively unfamiliar service in China. Our findings suggest that in order for LSAs to be successful in China, these services will need to provide more privacy assurances to users.
Second, different cultures may have different control requirements for sharing their location data. For example, we observed that Chinese participants needed specific control over the time when their locations would be shared, while data from U.S. participants suggest that the type of place where they are might be enough. LSAs might consider providing different control mechanisms to cater to the diverse needs of users from different backgrounds or countries.
We also found that participants’ sharing preferences were dramatically different when given additional control over how detailed their location information would be when shared. In our study, participants from both cultural backgrounds used many different granularities to accommodate their needs, which by itself is a significant finding and validates the availability of such controls in apps like Google Latitude[39]. However, Chinese participants used granularity settings primarily to maximize the amount of information they would be comfortable sharing, whereas U.S. participants used this control primarily to minimize their location disclosure. This finding suggests that introducing a more complex control mechanism could increase users’ comfort levels, however, it might encourage or discourage users to share more information.

Download the full paper here.

CyLab Tech Reports provide insights gleaned from ongoing work along fourteen different research thrusts. These papers are archived and available for free from CyLab OnLine.