If This Context Then That Concern: Exploring users’ concerns with IFTTT applets

Authors: Mahsa Saeidi (Affil), McKenzie Calvert (Affil), Audrey W. Au (Affil), Anita Sarma (Affil), Rakesh B. Bobba (Affil)

Volume: 2022
Issue: 1
Pages: 166–186
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2022-0009

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Abstract: End users are increasingly using trigger-action platforms like If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) to create applets to connect smart-home devices and services. However, there are inherent implicit risks in using such applets—even non-malicious ones—as sensitive information may leak through their use in certain contexts (e.g., where the device is located, who can observe the resultant action). This work aims to understand to what extent end users can assess this implicit risk. More importantly we explore whether usage context makes a difference in end-users’ perception of such risks. Our work complements prior work that has identified the impact of usage context on expert evaluation of risks in IFTTT by focusing the impact of usage context on end-users’ risk perception. Through a Mechanical Turk survey of 386 participants on 49 smart-home IFTTT applets, we found that participants have a nuanced view of contextual factors and that different values for contextual factors impact end-users’ risk perception differently. Further, our findings show that nudging the participants to think about different usage contexts led them to think deeper about the associated risks and raise their concern scores.

Keywords: Privacy, IoT, Smart home, IFTTT applets, Contextual factors

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