People want reassurance when making privacy-related decisions—Not technicalities

Oksana Kulyk, Karen Renaud, Stephan Costica

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Online service users sometimes need support when making privacy-related decisions. Humans make decisions either slowly, by painstakingly consulting all possible information, or quickly, by relying on cues to trigger heuristics. Human emotions elicited by the decision context affects decisions, often without the decision maker being aware of it. We wanted to determine how an information-based decision can be supported, and also to understand which cues are used by a heuristics-based approach. Our first study enhanced understanding of underlying encryption mechanisms using metaphors. Our participants objected to efforts to make them ‘technical experts’, expressing a need for reassurance instead. We fed their free-text responses into a Q-sort, to determine which cues they rely on to make heuristic-based decisions. We confirmed the desire for reassurance. Our third study elicited ‘cyber stories’: Unprompted narratives about cyber-related experiences to detect emotional undertones in this domain. Responses revealed a general negativity, which is bound to influence cybersecurity-related decisions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
Issue number111620
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Cyber
  • Privacy
  • Decision-making
  • Reassurance


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