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1 Introduction

Privacy is emerging as a critical design element for interactive systems in areas as diverse as e-commerce [69], health care [289], office work [160] and personal communications. These systems face the same fundamental tension. On the one hand, personal information can be used to streamline interactions, facilitate communication, and improve services. On the other hand, this same information introduces risks, ranging from mere distractions to extreme threats.

Government reports [244, 288], essays [228], books [23, 97, 200, 306], and media coverage [257, 297, 314] testify on peoples’ concerns regarding the potential for abuse and general unease over the lack of control over a variety of computer systems. Similarly, application developers worry that privacy concerns can impair the acceptance and adoption of their systems.

No end-to-end solutions exist to design privacy-respecting systems that cater to user concerns. Lessig provided a very high level framework for structuring the protection of individuals’ privacy, which leverages four forces: laws, social norms, the market, and technical mechanisms [199]. However, the challenge is in turning these broad guidelines into actionable design solutions. Our thesis is that HCI (and CSCW) researchers can greatly improve the protection of individual’s personal information, because many of the threats and vulnerabilities associated with privacy originate from the interactions between the people using information systems, rather than the actual systems.

Approaching the topic of privacy can be daunting for the HCI practitioner, because the research literature on privacy is dispersed across multiple communities, including computer networking, systems, human-computer interaction, requirements engineering, management information systems (MIS), marketing, jurisprudence, and the social sciences. Even within HCI, the privacy literature is fairly spread out. Furthermore, many IT professionals have common-sense notions about privacy that can turn out to be inaccurate.

Hence, the goal of this article is to provide a unified overview of privacy research in HCI, focusing specifically on issues related to the design and evaluation of end-user systems that have privacy implications. Section 3 presents this material structured along an ideal inquiry-build-evaluate development cycle. In addition to a literature review, in Section 2, we present two philosophical outlooks on privacy that will help the practitioner frame research questions and design issues. We also show how privacy research has evolved in parallel with HCI over the past 30 years. Finally, in Section 4, we outline key research challenges, where we think that HCI methods and research approaches can make a significant impact in furthering our knowledge about information privacy and personal data protection.

In the remainder of this Section, we explain why we think privacy research is challenging and interesting for HCI, and map out relevant literature published in HCI conferences and journals, and in neighboring fields such as MIS and CSCW.  

1.1 Why Should HCI Researchers Care About Privacy?

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