Washington, Nov 1: Internet users find it difficult and confusing to understand commonly available privacy tools in web browsers, a new study has suggested.
According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Internet users who want to protect their privacy by stopping advertisers and other companies from tracking their online behavior face great difficulty doing so with commonly available ‘opt-out’ tools.
“All nine of the tools we tested have serious usability flaws,” said Lorrie Cranor, director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS).
“We found that most people were confused by the instructions and had trouble installing or configuring the tools correctly.”
“Often, the settings they chose failed to protect their privacy as much as they expected, or to do anything at all.”
To assess the ability of non-technical individuals to protect themselves, researchers evaluated the privacy settings on two popular browsers, Mozilla Firefox 5 and Internet Explorer 9.
They also tested three tools that set opt-out cookies that are supposed to prevent particular advertising networks from displaying ads to users: DAA Consumer Choice, Evidon Global Opt-Out and PrivacyMark.
And they tested four tools that are supposed to block certain sites from tracking the user at all: Ghostery 2.5.3, TACO 4.0, Adblock Plus 1.3.9 and IE9 Tracking Protection.
The researchers recruited 45 people without technical training who use the Internet frequently. Each person was interviewed and assigned tools to test based on their browser and operating system preferences.
User testing found that privacy options in popular browsers, as well as online tools or plug-ins for blocking access by certain websites or otherwise opting out of tracking, were hard for the typical user to understand or to configure successfully. (ANI)