SPICE Colleagues Present WhatsApp Privacy Paper at HAISA

The highest number of active WhatsApp users in Southeast Asia exists in India and consists of approximately 200 million active users. Yet, despite this large user base, user perceptions of privacy settings were under researched within this population.

Research in this area entitled, “Privacy Practices, Preferences, and Compunctions WhatsApp Users in India” and completed by PhD students Jayati Dev and Sanchari Das and Professor L. Jean Camp was presented over the summer at the International Symposium on Human Aspects of Information Security & Assurance (HAISA). “Our research has interesting implications for both academia and industry,” Das remarked. Their study is an important part in understanding how to balance user experience and privacy needs on Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) platforms. Recommendations for preserving user privacy include: more stringent group controls to allow users more agency over the messaging groups they are added to, bundling security and privacy settings in order to, communicating privacy more clearly through reminders, integrating cultural differences and data sensitivity, and modifiable read receipts (to introduce plausible deniability for having read a message). This research is critical as user perception of privacy often differs from the actual level of privacy provided and this mismatch greatly influences users perception of privacy risks. “Our paper was well-received, with a number of participants looking forward to learning more about our cross-cultural analysis,” commented Dev.

HAISA gathers industry and technical experts to present and discuss recent advances in information security from research and commercial perspectives. The 12th annual symposium occurred from August 29th to August 31st in Dundee, Scotland. Themes addressed at the conference included cultural and organizational factors that shape security, social engineering, phishing resilience, and cybersecurity training. Furthermore, a number of privacy specific studies were featured covering topics like cyberbullying, artificial intelligence, and the impact of GDPR on privacy.

“Dundee is a beautiful place to begin with and the interactions with eminent scholars in the field enriched my experience even more. I learned and discussed methodologies which the researchers used for their studies and learned more on the statistical analysis which they applied as well. I am interested in attending the conference in future years,” Das said.