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Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security

Online Privacy Agreements, is it Informed Consent?

Masooda Bashir

Masooda Bashir - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Apr 16, 2014

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Abstract

Considering that most consumers do not read Privacy Policies and Terms of Service agreements before accepting them, considerable informational asymmetry exists between consumers and cloud service providers regarding the collection and processing of personal information online. One potential method for reducing this informational asymmetry is the application of informed consent to online environments. Informed consent online will mean upholding principles such as disclosure, competence, comprehension, voluntariness, and agreement. Comprehension and voluntariness are arguably the hardest principles to achieve under current Internet business models and consumer behavior patterns. In this talk I will present the results of an extensive, two-part privacy survey that assessed knowledge and opinions concerning comprehension and voluntariness in online consent agreements. Results expose comprehension gaps with respect to the contents of consent agreements as well as the background knowledge that would be necessary to understand the significance of the terms within the documents. In addition, our survey results highlight the coercive nature of the online consent process and suggest ways for better facilitating voluntariness in online interactions. We found substantial support for alternative service delivery models concerning privacy and for legislation that would endorse standardized consent agreements. These findings provide thought-provoking information which can be used to guide future efforts aimed at increasing consumer awareness about online privacy issues.

About the Speaker

Dr. Masooda Bashir is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Dr. Bashir also has appointments at the Coordinated Science laboratory, Information Trust Institute, Industrial and Enterprise Engineering and directs the social science research at the college of engineering. Dr. Bashir received her undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Purdue University. She worked for several years as a systems analyst, technical trainer, manager, and global manager for a number of high-tech corporations in Silicon Valley, including Lotus and IBM. Most recently, Dr. Bashir was the Assistant Director for Social Trust Initiatives in the Information Trust Institute (ITI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Bashir’s areas of research interests lie at the interface of IT, Psychology, and Society, especially how privacy, trust, and security factors intersect from a psychological point of view with information technology.

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