Characterizing Privacy Perceptions of Voice Assistants: A Technology Probe Study

by   Varun Chandrasekaran, et al.
University of Wisconsin-Madison

The increasing pervasiveness of voice assistants in the home poses several privacy threats, including the stealthy recording of conversations. Little is known about user mental models of such threats, levels of comfort with their presence, and perceptions of potential interventions to eliminate them. In this paper, we present the design and prototyping of two such interventions as technology probes, "Obfuscator" and "Blackout." We also present our findings from a field study that used both prototypes to better understand user mental models, preferences, and perceptions of privacy threats surrounding voice assistants. The findings from the field study have revealed several themes, including the importance of the aesthetics, ease-of-use, and form factor of the prototypes, all superseding the privacy-preserving features of the intervention. We discuss the design and research implications of our findings for the development of future interventions, the design of voice assistants, and our understanding of user privacy perceptions of voice assistants.


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