Understanding Health-Oriented Privacy Perceptions Regarding Ubiquitous Technology Use

Gregory D. Abowd, Sauvik Das, Munmun De Choudhury, Thomas Ploetz
Mehrab Bin Morshed, Koustuv Saha

In the last few years, there has been tremendous growth in the prevalence and widespread use of smart and ubiquitous technologies. These technologies include the use of smartphones, smartwatches and wearables, and smart devices such as Alexa, Google Home, or Google Nest. These technologies are used for a variety of health based self-reflection activities, such as tracking the number of steps or logging the number of calories taken in on a daily basis. While these devices have a variety of benefits, they come at the cost of using our data for number of purposes that is not transparent to an average user. In parallel, a number of privacy breaches in the last few years have led to a lot of discussions about the privacy and ethics of data sharing and use. This project aims to understand how people perceive regarding privacy concerns with respect to their health data being collected and used by third party entities (organizations and individuals). First, to understand the privacy perceptions of individuals at scale, we first analyze the presence of health based privacy related concerns in social media posts of individuals. Using interrupted time-series based approach, we study how exogenous events (such as privacy breaches) cause changes in the trends of privacy related concerns on social media. Next, to understand the different layers of abstractions with respect to privacy concerns, in terms of which modalities of data are individuals okay with sharing with and to whom, we design and conduct a survey on health-based privacy concerns. We study the relationship of these concerns with demographics and technological expertise of individuals. Finally, our work aims to draw design implications and recommendations for future privacy guidelines in health-based ubiquitous computing technologies.


We are interested in ubiquitous computing and the research issues involved in building and evaluating ubicomp applications and services that impact our lives. Much of our work is situated in settings of everyday activity, such as the classroom, the office and the home. Our research focuses on several topics including, automated capture and access to live experiences, context-aware computing, applications and services in the home, natural interaction, software architecture, technology policy, security and privacy issues, and technology for individuals with special needs.