Usable Sexurity: Studying People’s Concerns and Strategies When Sexting


Christine Geeng, Jevan Hutson, and Franziska Roesner, University of Washington


Sexting, while becoming commonplace in the age of mobile phones, is still not well-studied outside of the context of youth or risk prevention. Taking the perspective that sexting is a normal intimacy-building behavior rather than a deviant practice that should be prevented, this work studies the computer security and privacy mental models and technology use of adults who sext. We conducted an online survey of adults who have sexted (N=247), asking participants about which platforms they use to sext, their general sexting behaviors, what security and privacy concerns they have around sexting, and how they mitigate those concerns. We find, for example, significant concerns around sexts participants send "getting out" and being misused, as well as concerns around receiving unsolicited sexts. We also find that while participants use some technical strategies (e.g., using platforms with disappearing messages), they commonly rely on non-technical strategies like trust in their partner to mitigate concerns. We ground our findings in Citron's legal framework of sexual privacy to support individual autonomy, intimacy, and equality, and we make design recommendations for communication platforms to support usable security and privacy for sexting.

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@inproceedings {255666,
author = {Christine Geeng and Jevan Hutson and Franziska Roesner},
title = {Usable Sexurity: Studying {People{\textquoteright}s} Concerns and Strategies When Sexting},
booktitle = {Sixteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2020)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-16-8},
pages = {127--144},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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