User interface design can influence what personal information is shared online

UMSI Assistant Professor Erin Krupka has received a $224,675 from the National Science Foundation to fund her project, “Collaborative Research: SaTC Eager: Design, Perception, and Action – Engineering Information Give-Away,” which explores the impact of user interface (UI) design in persuading users to give away personal information.

UI design is a branch of human-computer interaction (HCI) focused on anticipating user needs and meeting those needs through user-centered design. While interface designs often help users achieve an end goal, it may also augment corporate interests such as the acquisition of personal information.

Krupka’s project explores this idea by examining how user interface designs can facilitate the disclosure of private information by persuading users that it is socially normal behavior. She explains that UI design can influence user perceptions of what kind and how much information is acceptable to reveal. 

Interfaces often signal social norms for online communities to assist newcomers, or to prevent certain behaviors and to encourage others. Similarly, UI elements that display friends’ birthdays on social media sites may lead users to share their own birthdays on those sites.

“Shaping behaviors through user interface design is well-established principle in modern HCI, as interfaces often provide cues to help users achieve some end-goal,” Krupka says in her proposal. However, she warns against the “manipulative designs that lead to oversharing,” particularly for users of sensitive populations who are unaware of the potential consequences of sharing personal information.

Combining Human-Computer Interaction methods with an experimental economics approach, the study will have implications for cybersecurity and HCI communities. The results from this study can be used to educate and protect users again malevolent interface designs, and to help users consider their online disclosure of private information. The study will also help UI designers examine the impact of design choices and to consider the long-term consequences of their end-users and sites.

Krupka is the principal investigator on this project and will be working with Eytan Adar, an Associate Professor of Information at UMSI and an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the U-M School of  Computer Science & Engineering, and Alessandro Acquisti, a Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.



Posted on September 9, 2015