Some users trust Alexa less after getting more privacy controls

The researchers found that for power users trust in Amazon Alexa went down when they were given the opportunity to make privacy setting adjustments.

Another major finding showed that users who were sensitive about their privacy found content less credible when given the option to customise their privacy settings.
Another major finding showed that users who were sensitive about their privacy found content less credible when given the option to customise their privacy settings. (Bloomberg)

Far from increasing trust in smart assistants, giving the option to adjust settings for privacy or content delivery, or both, may do just the opposite for some users, says a study.

The researchers found that for power users -- individuals whose skills and expertise are more advanced than others -- trust in Amazon Alexa went down when they were given the opportunity to make privacy setting adjustments.

"That's kind of counterintuitive," said S. Shyam Sundar, Professor at Pennsylvania State University in the US.

"The mere presence of privacy settings seems to trigger thoughts of potential privacy problems among those who are aware of such loopholes in communication technologies," he said.

"Once you give power users these options and they realise (that privacy settings are) actually controllable, they tend to panic and see the between-the-lines message rather than see customisation for what it is, which is really a benevolent effort to provide more user control," he added.

Another major finding showed that users who were sensitive about their privacy found content less credible when given the option to customise their privacy settings.

However, trust in the content increased when these users were also given the opportunity to customise that content.

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In the first part of the study, half of the users were randomly given the opportunity to customize their privacy settings -- such as deleting their voice recordings -- while the others were not.

Then, another random half of the sample was able to customise their content-- such as adjusting speed or content length, or selecting the source of information -- while the other half was not afforded the opportunity.

The findings were published in the proceedings of 2020 ACM Conference on Human Factors and Computing Systems (CHI) which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.