The Samuelson Clinic recently released a paper reviewing the legal, technical, and software interface design issues related to spyware and its installation by users. Spyware is software which monitors user actions, gathers personal data, and/or displays advertisements to users. While some spyware is installed surreptitiously, a surprising amount is installed on users’ computers with their active participation. In Stopping Spyware at the Gate: A User Study of Privacy, Notice and Spyware, authors Nathaniel S. Good, Rachna Dhamija, Jens Grossklags, David Thaw, Steven Aronowitz, Deirdre Mulligan, and Joseph Konstan report on results of an experiment in which 31 users conducted computer configuration tasks and passed a thorough interview process. The results suggested that mutual assent, in the legal sense, is largely unachievable given the current state of notices and law. The paper was presented on July 7, 2005 at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
A Samuelson Clinic team of students from the School of Information and Boalt Hall is currently conducting further research on interfaces and notice design with the goal of enabling users to achieving informed decision-making.