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A Usability Evaluation of Tor Launcher

Abstract

Although Tor has state-of-the art anticensorship measures, users in heavily censored environments will not be able to connect to Tor if they cannot configure their connections. We perform the first usability evaluation of Tor Launcher, the graphical user interface (GUI) that Tor Browser uses to configure connections to Tor. Our study shows that 79% (363 of 458) of user attempts to connect to Tor in simulated censored environments failed. We found that users were often frustrated during the process and tried options at random. In this paper, we measure potential usability issues, discuss design constraints unique to Tor, and provide recommendations based on what we learned to help more users connect to Tor while reducing the time they take to do so. Tor Browser incorporated the changes proposed by this study.

Open access
Privacy Attitudes of Smart Speaker Users

Abstract

As devices with always-on microphones located in people’s homes, smart speakers have significant privacy implications. We surveyed smart speaker owners about their beliefs, attitudes, and concerns about the recordings that are made and shared by their devices. To ground participants’ responses in concrete interactions, rather than collecting their opinions abstractly, we framed our survey around randomly selected recordings of saved interactions with their devices. We surveyed 116 owners of Amazon and Google smart speakers and found that almost half did not know that their recordings were being permanently stored and that they could review them; only a quarter reported reviewing interactions, and very few had ever deleted any. While participants did not consider their own recordings especially sensitive, they were more protective of others’ recordings (such as children and guests) and were strongly opposed to use of their data by third parties or for advertising. They also considered permanent retention, the status quo, unsatisfactory. Based on our findings, we make recommendations for more agreeable data retention policies and future privacy controls.

Open access
“Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?” Examining COPPA Compliance at Scale

Abstract

We present a scalable dynamic analysis framework that allows for the automatic evaluation of the privacy behaviors of Android apps. We use our system to analyze mobile apps’ compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), one of the few stringent privacy laws in the U.S. Based on our automated analysis of 5,855 of the most popular free children’s apps, we found that a majority are potentially in violation of COPPA, mainly due to their use of thirdparty SDKs. While many of these SDKs offer configuration options to respect COPPA by disabling tracking and behavioral advertising, our data suggest that a majority of apps either do not make use of these options or incorrectly propagate them across mediation SDKs. Worse, we observed that 19% of children’s apps collect identifiers or other personally identifiable information (PII) via SDKs whose terms of service outright prohibit their use in child-directed apps. Finally, we show that efforts by Google to limit tracking through the use of a resettable advertising ID have had little success: of the 3,454 apps that share the resettable ID with advertisers, 66% transmit other, non-resettable, persistent identifiers as well, negating any intended privacy-preserving properties of the advertising ID.

Open access