CAREER: Examining Users' Collective Privacy Management for Online Social Networks

Project: Research project

Project Details


To better articulate privacy as a dynamic and dialectic phenomenon in a Web 2.0 world, this project proposes a set of basic empirical research activities to investigate three aspects of privacy in online social networks: conceptualization, intervention, and awareness. The goals of this CAREER award are to: 1) improve the theoretical understanding of information privacy in the context of online social networks in an interdisciplinary manner; 2) assess the efficacy of various privacy intervention strategies developed or proposed by the technologists and regulators; and 3) develop and enhance the persuasiveness of privacy and security awareness and training programs. The main contribution of this research is the generation of an interdisciplinary privacy research framework, with extensive grounding in a range of multidisciplinary privacy literatures in behavioral sciences, computer science, information systems, communication, and social psychology. This research takes a holistic view of privacy compared to the large amount of work focusing strictly on data privacy aspects. Thus, it recognizes the critical importance of user perceptions and behaviors when evaluating and developing privacy protection approaches. The proposed three tasks are greatly needed to better connect the social analysis of user privacy behaviors with the technical design of privacy enhancing technologies. The work should contribute to basic science-the underpinnings of user perceptions and actions around privacy management-as well as the findings generated for informing the design of privacy enhancing techniques. The research findings can enable technology-oriented researchers to develop more feasible privacy enhancing techniques that are embedded into the design specifications of systems, as well as aligned with organizational practices and user behaviors. This project will adopt various empirical research methods (experiments, large-scale survey, focus group and social network analysis) to test the behavioral hypotheses underlying user privacy behaviors in the context of online social networks. Well executed surveys and field experiments will contribute substantially to our understanding of how the actual users of online social networks behave and what interventions (in terms of technologies, regulations and trainings) may change their privacy decisions and behaviors.

One of the three major research thrusts is to develop a privacy awareness and training program for users of online social networks. The findings could potentially have a large impact on promoting privacy and security awareness in the user community. The project also has impacts on guideline creation for industry regulators and government agencies. The PI aims to transform the repository of knowledge on the dynamic and dialectic nature of privacy assurance into a number of educational activities in her academic home at Penn State. The educational plan describes the development of new courses and course modules on privacy assurance at both undergraduate and graduate levels, bringing research into classrooms, outreach to students in underrepresented groups, and training of undergraduate and graduate student researchers in interdisciplinary methods. The PI has transformed her science into a privacy workshop for high-school girls and their parents to teach about on-line privacy issues and practices. She proposes to continue such efforts to promote privacy and security awareness among high-school girls, as well as to attract more female students into the program of security and risk analysis at Penn State. The PI will also work with a professional society, the Association for Information Systems, to create a privacy research chapter and a privacy pedagogy section to extend the Information Systems research agenda and curriculum into this important area nationally.

Effective start/end date6/1/109/30/16


  • National Science Foundation: $394,642.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.