"It's the Company, the Government, You and I": User Perceptions of Responsibility for Smart Home Privacy and Security


Julie Haney, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Yasemin Acar, National Institute of Standards and Technology and Leibniz University Hannover; Susanne Furman, National Institute of Standards and Technology


Smart home technology may expose adopters to increased risk to network security, information privacy, and physical safety. However, users may lack understanding of the privacy and security implications. Additionally, manufacturers often fail to provide transparency and configuration options, and few government-provided guidelines have yet to be widely adopted. This results in little meaningful mitigation action to protect users’ security and privacy. But how can this situation be improved and by whom? It is currently unclear where perceived responsibility for smart home privacy and security lies. To address this gap, we conducted an in-depth interview study of 40 smart home adopters to explore where they assign responsibility and how their perceptions of responsibility relate to their concerns and mitigations. Results reveal that participants’ perceptions of responsibility reflect an interdependent relationship between consumers, manufacturers, and third parties such as the government. However, perceived breakdowns and gaps in the relationship result in users being concerned about their security and privacy. Based on our results, we suggest ways in which these actors can address gaps and better support each other.

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