Date of Award

12-2010

Embargo Period

11-2-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Engineering and Public Policy

Abstract

As more people seek the benefits of going online, more people are exposed to privacy risks from their time online. With a largely unregulated Internet, self-determination about privacy risks must be feasible for people from all walks of life. Yet in many cases decisions are either not obvious or not accessible. As one example, privacy policies are written beyond most adults reading comprehension level, and few people read policies let alone act based on the information policies contain. In my thesis I examine decisions made about threats from website data collection. In the course of multiple studies I use a variety of tools including lab-based studies, online studies, mental models interviews, economic analysis, and analysis of cookies used for tracking. Privacy literature is full of apparent conflicts between people saying they care very much about their privacy, yet not taking the steps required to protect their privacy. By using multiple approaches and crossing multiple disciplines I am able to contribute to a more coherent picture of whether people are able to make choices about protecting their online privacy.

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