Sauvik Das, Tiffany Hyun-Jin Kim, Laura Dabbish, and Jason Hong


Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS)


July 2014


Despite an impressive effort at raising the general populace’s security sensitivity—the awareness of, motivation to use, and knowledge of how to use security and privacy tools—much security advice is ignored and many security tools remain underutilized. Part of the problem may be that we do not yet understand the social processes underlying people’s decisions to (1) disseminate information about security and privacy and (2) actually modify their security behaviors (e.g., adopt a new security tool or practice). To that end, we report on a retrospective interview study examining the role of social influence—or, our ability to affect the behaviors and perceptions of others with our own words and actions—in people’s decisions to change their security behaviors, as well as the nature of and reasons for their discussions about security. We found that social processes played a major role in a large number of privacy and security-related behavior changes reported by our sample, probably because these processes were effective at raising security sensitivity. We also found that conversations about security were most often driven by the desire to warn or protect others from immediate novel threats observed or experienced, or to gather information about solving an experienced problem. Furthermore, the observability of security feature usage was a key enabler of socially triggered behavior change—both in encouraging the spread of positive behaviors and in discouraging negative behaviors.

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