"I Have a Narrow Thought Process": Constraints on Explanations Connecting Inferences and Self-Perceptions


Emilee Rader, Samantha Hautea, and Anjali Munasinghe, Michigan State University

IAPP SOUPS Privacy Award


Most people are unfamiliar with the kinds of inferences that platforms like Facebook and Google can automatically associate with them, despite the existence of interfaces designed to provide transparency to end users. We conducted a study to investigate people's reactions upon being exposed to these inferences, to learn if and how they perceived the inferences to be connected to themselves. Through qualitative analysis, we found that the evidence participants used to relate the inferences with their self-perceptions was bounded by what they remembered about their own past behaviors in connection with the platform. Inferences that participants felt were implausible given their own behavior were rationalized as being related to family members, outdated, or could fit anyone with similar demographic characteristics. Participants also identified some inferences they believed had no connection with themselves whatsoever. We discuss implications for how participants' reasoning might lead to expectations about what kinds of inferences are possible, and what this means for people's ability to make informed privacy decisions regarding consent and disclosure.

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@inproceedings {255668,
author = {Emilee Rader and Samantha Hautea and Anjali Munasinghe},
title = {"I Have a Narrow Thought Process": Constraints on Explanations Connecting Inferences and Self-Perceptions},
booktitle = {Sixteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security ({SOUPS} 2020)},
year = {2020},
isbn = {978-1-939133-16-8},
pages = {457--488},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/soups2020/presentation/rader},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = aug,

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