Using Illustrations to Communicate Differential Privacy Trust Models: An Investigation of Users' Comprehension, Perception, and Data Sharing Decision

by   Aiping Xiong, et al.

Proper communication is key to the adoption and implementation of differential privacy (DP). However, a prior study found that laypeople did not understand the data perturbation processes of DP and how DP noise protects their sensitive personal information. Consequently, they distrusted the techniques and chose to opt out of participating. In this project, we designed explanative illustrations of three DP models (Central DP, Local DP, Shuffler DP) to help laypeople conceptualize how random noise is added to protect individuals' privacy and preserve group utility. Following pilot surveys and interview studies, we conducted two online experiments (N = 595) examining participants' comprehension, privacy and utility perception, and data-sharing decisions across the three DP models. Besides the comparisons across the three models, we varied the noise levels of each model. We found that the illustrations can be effective in communicating DP to the participants. Given an adequate comprehension of DP, participants preferred strong privacy protection for a certain type of data usage scenarios (i.e., commercial interests) at both the model level and the noise level. We also obtained empirical evidence showing participants' acceptance of the Shuffler DP model for data privacy protection. Our findings have implications for multiple stakeholders for user-centered deployments of differential privacy, including app developers, DP model developers, data curators, and online users.


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