Effects of Privacy Permissions on User Choices in Voice Assistant App Stores

Authors: Gary Liu (University of California, Berkeley), Nathan Malkin (University of California, Berkeley)

Volume: 2022
Issue: 4
Pages: 421–439
DOI: https://doi.org/10.56553/popets-2022-0116

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Abstract: Intelligent voice assistants, and the thirdparty apps (aka “skills” or “actions”) that power them, are increasing in popularity and beginning to experiment with the ability to continuously listen to users. This paper studies how privacy concerns related to such always-listening voice assistants might affect consumer behavior and whether certain privacy mitigations would render them more acceptable. To explore these questions with more realistic user choices, we built an interactive app store that allowed users to install apps for a hypothetical always-listening voice assistant. In a study with 214 participants, we asked users to browse the app store and install apps for different voice assistants that offered varying levels of privacy protections. We found that users were generally more willing to install continuously-listening apps when there were greater privacy protections, but this effect was not universally present. The majority did not review any permissions in detail, but still expressed a preference for stronger privacy protections. Our results suggest that privacy factors into user choice, but many people choose to skip this information.

Keywords: privacy, usability

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