Google Research

PriSEC: A Privacy Settings Enforcement Controller

30th USENIX Security Symposium (2021)

Abstract

Online privacy settings aim to provide users with control over their data. However, in their current state, they suffer from usability and reachability issues. The recent push towards automatically analyzing privacy notices has not accompanied a similar effort for the more critical case of privacy settings. So far, the best efforts targeted the special case of making opt-out pages more reachable. In this work, we present PriSEC, a Privacy Settings Enforcement Controller that leverages machine learning techniques towards a new paradigm for automatically enforcing web privacy controls. PriSEC goes beyond finding the webpages with privacy settings to discovering fine-grained options, presenting them in a searchable, centralized interface, and – most importantly – enforcing them on-demand with minimal user intervention. We overcome the open nature of web development through novel algorithms that leverage the invariant behavior and rendering of webpages. We evaluate the performance of PriSEC to find that it precisely annotates the privacy controls for 94.3% of the control pages in our evaluation set. To demonstrate the usability of PriSEC, we conduct a user study with 148 participants. We show an average reduction of 3.75x in the time taken to adjust privacy settings compared to the baseline system.

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