New research studies how people navigate a world in which data-collection is ubiquitous

Internet search engines are a treasure trove of user data. Researchers have estimated that more than 4 million search queries are entered into Google every minute.

The use of computer algorithms that can make inferences from user data about a person’s gender, age, political opinions, religious affiliations and other traits is widespread, which has raised serious privacy concerns.

How are individual internet-users approaching personal privacy protection in this algorithm-rich environment?

"Such behaviors are poorly accounted for in existing technology design practices," says Eric P. S. Baumer, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

Baumer was recently awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to study how people navigate a world in which data-collection is a continuous feature of their environment and how internet systems can be better designed to support "data literate" behaviors. The award is a collaborative grant with Andrea Forte, associate professor of information science at Drexel University.

The study seeks to fill a gap in knowledge about the various ways individuals approach personal privacy protection. The aim is to gain a better understanding of human-computer interaction with an eye toward technology design aimed at accommodating and supporting different privacy styles. Ultimately, Baumer hopes the proposed privacy styles instruments could be useful to a variety of different disciplines, including human-computer interaction, communication, sociology, media studies and others.

Read the full article in the Lehigh University News Center.

-Lori Friedman is a Director of Media Relations with Lehigh University's Office of Communications and Public Affairs.


Eric P. S. Baumer, Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering