Informed Consent: Are Your Participants Aware of What They Share?

August 8, 2022
Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security

As usability researchers, we want to believe that the information our participants share in online survey and software behavior studies stays between us and the survey participant. We are careful to follow our institutions’ guidelines for confidentiality, especially when our work is covered by an IRB. But are we fully aware of the data sharing agreements underlying the participants’ use of these testing tools?

At Internet Safety Labs we are working on a Safe Technology Specification and have evaluated some of the most popular usability testing platforms. What we found may be surprising.

Did you know:

  • Your usability software platform could be re-sharing (and reselling) your participants’ responses and personal data (device/network/cookies/intent) to advertising companies without any clear notice or control?
  • Your participants are subject to both your data sharing terms and the terms and policies of the usability platform?
  • Your participants are likely only aware of your data sharing and confidentiality policies?

The usability testing market is a $40 billion industry. They are not making that kind of money from your subscription alone. It’s our duty as usability researchers to ensure that study participants understand that the privacy agreement they make with us is only part of the picture.

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