Are Privacy Dashboards Good for End Users? Evaluating User Perceptions and Reactions to Google’s My Activity

Florian Farke, David Balash, Maximilian Golla, Markus Dürmuth, Adam Aviv

USENIX Security Symposium (SSYM '21). Virtual Conference, August 11-13, 2021


Privacy dashboards and transparency tools help users review and manage the data collected about them online. Since 2016, Google has offered such a tool, My Activity, which allows users to review and delete their activity data from Google services. We conducted an online survey with n=153 participants to understand if Google's My Activity, as an example of a privacy transparency tool, increases or decreases end-users' concerns and benefits regarding data collection. While most participants were aware of Google's data collection, the volume and detail was surprising, but after exposure to My Activity, participants were significantly more likely to be both less concerned about data collection and to view data collection more beneficially. Only 25% indicated that they would change any settings in the My Activity service or change any behaviors. This suggests that privacy transparency tools are quite beneficial for online services as they garner trust with their users and improve their perceptions without necessarily changing users' behaviors. At the same time, though, it remains unclear if such transparency tools actually improve end user privacy by sufficiently assisting or motivating users to change or review data collection settings.

[arXiv Preprint]

tags: privacy-enhancing technologies, Usability