Examining Location Sharing as an Interactive Practice

Event Date: April 17, 2014
Speaker: Sameer Patil
Speaker Affiliation: Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT)
Sponsor: Prospective ECE faculty member
Time: 10:30am, Reception 11:30am
Location: EE 317


Advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), like social media, smartphones, tablets, and high speed cellular networks, have enabled people to communicate, interact, and collaborate with professional and social contacts across the globe. At the same time, ICT users continue to struggle with reconciling interaction needs with privacy desires. In particular, the ever-expanding size of social and professional networks has made it increasingly cumbersome for individuals to configure privacy settings. We used Location Sharing Systems (LSS) as a vehicle to unpack these issues.

Rapid growth in the usage of location-aware mobile phones has enabled mainstream adoption of LSS. Integration with social network services like Facebook has further accelerated this trend. However, sharing location information presents an inherent tension with managing privacy. I will present two studies exploring preferences and behaviors of LSS users. In an initial study (N = 362), we found that the main motivations for location sharing were to connect with one's social circle, to project an interesting image of oneself, and to receive rewards offered for "checking in." Respondents overwhelmingly preferred sharing location only upon explicit action. More than a quarter of the respondents recalled at least one instance of regret over having shared location. We noted that privacy considerations in contemporary LSS are affected by transformation of location sharing into an interactive practice that is no longer limited only to finding people based on their whereabouts. We then built a location sharing infrastructure called Locasa with a corresponding Android app designed to conduct experience sampling studies of location sharing preferences and practices. Our initial study  (N = 35) examined various contextual factors that contribute to discrepancies between a person's pre-specified privacy settings and in situ desires. We found that immediate feedback without the ability to control disclosure outcome evoked feelings of "oversharing." Moreover, deviation from specified privacy settings did not always signal a privacy violation; it was just as likely that privacy settings prevented information disclosure that was considered permissible in situ. The study findings further motivate selective control when sharing with socially distant recipients and visiting atypical locations. Based on our results, I will offer some design explorations for enhanced privacy management in LSS.


Sameer Patil is a research scientist at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) in Finland. His research interests lie in the domain of usable privacy and security. He is interested in designing and building consumer and enterprise solutions that empower and educate end users to manage privacy and security effectively. Previously, Sameer was a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bloomington, supported by the Institute for Infrastructure Protection (I3P). Sameer obtained a Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) with a specialization in Interactive and Collaborative Technologies. He also holds MSE in Computer Science & Engineering and MSI in Human Computer Interaction from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Bachelor's degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Bombay, India. At UCI, Sameer was part of the Institute for Software Research (ISR) and the Consortium for Research on Information Technology in Organizations (CRITO). His extensive international experience includes visiting appointments at universities in Germany, Austria, and Sweden. He has been a research intern at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center in NY and Avaya Labs Research in NJ. His research has been published in top-tier HCI journals and conferences, including CHI, CSCW, and SOUPS.