Google Research

“WTH..!?!” Experiences, reactions, and expectations related to online privacy panic situations

Eleventh Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2015), USENIX Association


There are moments in which users might find themselves experiencing feelings of panic with the realization that their privacy or personal information on the Internet might be at risk. We present an exploratory study on common experiences of online privacy-related panic and on users’ reactions to frequently occurring privacy incidents. By using the metaphor of a privacy panic button, we also gather users’ expectations on the type of help that they would like to obtain in such situations. Through user interviews (n = 16) and a survey (n = 549), we identify 18 scenarios of privacy panic situations. We ranked these scenarios according to their frequency of occurrence and to the concerns of users to become victims of these incidents. We explore users’ underlying worries of falling pray for these incidents and other contextual factors common to privacy panic experiences. Based on our findings we present implications for the design of a help system for users experiencing privacy panic situations.

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