The Effectiveness of Adaptation Methods in Improving User Engagement and Privacy Protection on Social Network Sites

Authors: Moses Namara (Clemson University), Henry Sloan (Binghamton University), Bart P. Knijnenburg (Clemson University)

Volume: 2022
Issue: 1
Pages: 629–648
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/popets-2022-0031

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Abstract: Research finds that the users of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) often fail to comprehensively engage with the plethora of available privacy features— arguably due to their sheer number and the fact that they are often hidden from sight. As different users are likely interested in engaging with different subsets of privacy features, an SNS could improve privacy management practices by adapting its interface in a way that proactively assists, guides, or prompts users to engage with the subset of privacy features they are most likely to benefit from. Whereas recent work presents algorithmic implementations of such privacy adaptation methods, this study investigates the optimal user interface mechanism to present such adaptations. In particular, we tested three proposed “adaptation methods” (automation, suggestions, highlights) in an online betweensubjects user experiment in which 406 participants used a carefully controlled SNS prototype. We systematically evaluate the effect of these adaptation methods on participants’ engagement with the privacy features, their tendency to set stricter settings (protection), and their subjective evaluation of the assigned adaptation method. We find that the automation of privacy features afforded users the most privacy protection, while giving privacy suggestions caused the highest level of engagement with the features and the highest subjective ratings (as long as awkward suggestions are avoided). We discuss the practical implications of these findings in the effectiveness of adaptations improving user awareness of, and engagement with, privacy features on social media.

Keywords: privacy, social media, Facebook, usertailored privacy, privacy on social media, privacy decision-making

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