Manage All Your Privacy Settings From One App With CMU's Personal Privacy Assistant

If managing your smartphone’s shared locations and contact list is giving you anxiety, help is coming your way. A team at Carnegie Mellon University is creating a personalized privacy assistant app to make it simpler to manage smartphone app permissions. The app has the capacity to learn a user’s preferences and make recommendations for settings.

"It's clear that people just can't cope with the complexities of privacy settings associated with the apps they have on their smartphones," said Norman Sadeh, professor of computer science at CMU, in a release. "And it’s not just smartphone apps. The growing number of sensors and other smart devices that make up the so-called internet of things will impact privacy and make it even more challenging for users to retain control over their data and how it is being used."

The team conducted a field study, presented at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) in Denver, to find that subjects accepted 80 percent of the privacy assistant’s suggestions. By the end of the study, participants disclosed they were more comfortable with their settings after using recommendations.

"Previous studies have shown that most people are unaware of many of the privacy settings for their apps, or aren't comfortable with the permissions they consented to at some earlier point," said Sadeh. "Our findings suggest that the personal privacy assistant does a good job of properly profiling each user and that its recommendations based on those profiles were useful.”

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