Due to the popularity of the Internet and the networked services that it facilitates, networked devices have become increasingly common in both the workplace and everyday life in recent years—following the trail blazed by smartphones. The data provided by these devices allow for the creation of rich user profiles. As a result, the collection, processing and exchange of such personal data have become drivers of economic growth.
History shows that the adoption of new technologies is likely to influence both individual and societal concepts of privacy. Research into privacy has therefore been confronted with continuously changing concepts due to technological progress. From a legal perspective, privacy laws that reflect social values are sought. Privacy enhancing technologies are developed or adapted to take account of technological development. Organizations must also identify protective measures that are effective in terms of scalability and automation. Similarly, research is being conducted from the perspective of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) to explore design spaces that empower individuals to manage their protection needs with regard to novel data, which they may perceive as sensitive.
Taking such an HCI perspective with regard to understanding privacy management on the Internet of Things (IoT), this research mainly focuses on three interrelated goals across the fields of application:
1. Exploring and analyzing how people make sense of data, especially when
managing privacy and data disclosure;
2. Identifying, framing and evaluating potential resources for designing
sense-making processes; and
3. Exploring the fitness of the identified concepts for inclusion in legal and
technical perspectives on supporting decisions regarding privacy on the
Although this work's point of departure is the HCI perspective, it emphasizes the importance of the interrelationships among seemingly independent perspectives. Their interdependence is therefore also emphasized and taken into account by subscribing to a user-centered design process throughout this study.
More specifically, this thesis adopts a design case study approach. This approach makes it possible to conduct full user-centered design lifecycles in a concrete application case with participants in the context of everyday life. Based on this approach, it was possible to investigate several domains of the IoT that are currently relevant, namely smart metering, smartphones, smart homes and connected cars.
The results show that the participants were less concerned about (raw) data than about the information that could potentially be derived from it. Against the background of the constant collection of highly technical and abstract data, the content of which only becomes visible through the application of complex algorithms, this study indicates that people should learn to explore and understand these data flexibly, and provides insights in how to design for supporting this aim.
From the point of view of design for usable privacy protection measures, the information that is provided to users about data disclosure should be focused on the consequences thereof for users' environments and life. A related concept from law is “informed consent,” which I propose should be further developed in order to implement usable mechanisms for individual privacy protection in the era of the IoT. Finally, this thesis demonstrates how research on HCI can be methodologically embedded in a regulative process that will inform both the development of technology and the drafting of legislation.