Understanding Privacy Attitudes and Concerns Towards Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authors: 

Pardis Emami-Naeini, Tiona Francisco, Tadayoshi Kohno, and Franziska Roesner, University of Washington

Abstract: 

Since December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused people around the world to exercise social distancing, which has led to an abrupt rise in the adoption of remote communications for working, socializing, and learning from home. As remote communications will outlast the pandemic, it is crucial to protect users' security and respect their privacy in this unprecedented setting, and that requires a thorough understanding of their behaviors, attitudes, and concerns toward various aspects of remote communications. To this end, we conducted an online study with 220 worldwide Prolific participants. We found that privacy and security are among the most frequently mentioned factors impacting participants' attitude and comfort level with conferencing tools and meeting locations. Open-ended responses revealed that most participants lacked autonomy when choosing conferencing tools or using microphone/webcam in their remote meetings, which in several cases contradicted their personal privacy and security preferences. Based on our findings, we distill several recommendations on how employers, educators, and tool developers can inform and empower users to make privacy-protective decisions when engaging in remote communications.

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