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Kobsa to lead an international team in the study of household IoT users' privacy decisions using process-tracing technology

Bart Knijnenburg and Alfred Kobsa

UCI Informatics Professor Alfred Kobsa is part of an international team who recently received an $882,000 award in a joint competition of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The award will fund research on “Using Process Tracing to Improve Household loT Users’ Privacy Decisions,” which Kobsa will work on with his former student Bart Knijnenburg, who is now an assistant professor at Clemson University, and Martijn Willemsen from the Eindhoven University of Technical in the Netherlands. The anticipated five-year project will investigate how, why and when privacy decisions of household IoT users are suboptimal, then use this research to create and test a simple single-user interface that integrates privacy settings across all household devices. The proposed interface will offer a flexible set of privacy profiles that fits a range of privacy preferences, while also helping U.S. companies comply with EU privacy regulations when operating in European markets.

What sets this research apart from previous work is that the research team is focused on understanding and improving consumers’ privacy decision processes. This will also be the first time a privacy decision-making study has incorporated the complex process of using eye-tracking technology and process-tracing methods with users, to develop a data-driven set of privacy profiles that cover the preferences of most users. These profiles will then be integrated into an open-source privacy management interface that leverages users’ existing decision processes while avoiding their biases.