Runtime Permissions for Privacy in Proactive Intelligent Assistants


Nathan Malkin and David Wagner, University of California, Berkeley; Serge Egelman, University of California, Berkeley & International Computer Science Institute


Intelligent voice assistants may soon become proactive, offering suggestions without being directly invoked. Such behavior increases privacy risks, since proactive operation requires continuous monitoring of conversations. To mitigate this problem, our study proposes and evaluates one potential privacy control, in which the assistant requests permission for the information it wishes to use immediately after hearing it.

To find out how people would react to runtime permission requests, we recruited 23 pairs of participants to hold conversations while receiving ambient suggestions from a proactive assistant, which we simulated in real time using the Wizard of Oz technique. The interactive sessions featured different modes and designs of runtime permission requests and were followed by in-depth interviews about people's preferences and concerns. Most participants were excited about the devices despite their continuous listening, but wanted control over the assistant's actions and their own data. They generally prioritized an interruption-free experience above more fine-grained control over what the device would hear.

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@inproceedings {281218,
author = {Nathan Malkin and David Wagner and Serge Egelman},
title = {Runtime Permissions for Privacy in Proactive Intelligent Assistants},
booktitle = {Eighteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2022)},
year = {2022},
isbn = {978-1-939133-30-4},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {633--651},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,