An Empirical Analysis of Data Deletion and Opt-Out Choices on 150 Websites


Hana Habib, Carnegie Mellon University; Yixin Zou, University of Michigan; Aditi Jannu, Neha Sridhar, Chelse Swoopes, Alessandro Acquisti, Lorrie Faith Cranor, and Norman Sadeh, Carnegie Mellon University; Florian Schaub, University of Michigan


Many websites offer visitors privacy controls and opt-out choices, either to comply with legal requirements or to address consumer privacy concerns. The way these control mechanisms are implemented can significantly affect individuals’ choices and their privacy outcomes. We present an extensive content analysis of a stratified sample of 150 English-language websites, assessing the usability and interaction paths of their data deletion options and opt-outs for email communications and targeted advertising. This heuristic evaluation identified substantial issues that likely make exercising these privacy choices on many websites difficult and confusing for US-based consumers. Even though the majority of analyzed websites offered privacy choices, they were located inconsistently across websites. Furthermore, some privacy choices were rendered unusable by missing or unhelpful information, or by links that did not lead to the stated choice. Based on our findings, we provide insights for addressing usability issues in the end-to-end interaction required to effectively exercise privacy choices and controls.

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@inproceedings {238295,
author = {Hana Habib and Yixin Zou and Aditi Jannu and Neha Sridhar and Chelse Swoopes and Alessandro Acquisti and Lorrie Faith Cranor and Norman Sadeh and Florian Schaub},
title = {An Empirical Analysis of Data Deletion and {Opt-Out} Choices on 150 Websites},
booktitle = {Fifteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2019)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-939133-05-2},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {387--406},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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