Internet users that want to protect their privacy by stopping advertisers and other companies from tracking their online behavior will have a hard time doing so with the available opt-out tools, according to a recent Carnegie Mellon University report, which indicates that privacy options, including online tools for blocking access to certain Web sites, are difficult for the average user to understand or configure successfully. "We found that most people were confused by the instructions and had trouble installing or configuring the tools correctly," says Carnegie Mellon researcher Lorrie Cranor.
The researchers recruited 45 people without technical training who use the Internet frequently. Each user was interviewed and assigned tools to test based on their browser and operating system preferences. The researchers found that the users could not distinguish between trackers and could not change default settings that left them vulnerable to tracking. The researchers also found that the tools presented communication problems and did not provide feedback to users.
"A lot of effort is being put into creating these tools to help consumers, but it will all be wasted — and people will be left vulnerable — unless a greater emphasis is placed on usability," Cranor says.
From Carnegie Mellon News
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