Improving privacy settings control in online social networks with a wheel interface

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Abstract

Online social networks (OSNs) have been built as platforms for information sharing, with their concomitant potential for misuse of information and unsafe sharing practices. The frontline of defense against such threats is the “privacy settings” controls provided by OSNs such as Facebook. However, the efficacy of these settings is often undermined by their poor design. The current design fatigues users with information overload and fails to provide them with a more integrative and global understanding of their information-sharing practices. In this article, we develop a more efficacious design for the display of OSNs’ privacy settings by following recommendations for appropriate use of visualization techniques. The new “wheel” interface simplifies the presentation of privacy settings to reduce information overload. It also incorporates an additional layer of information, indicating the safety of users’ settings. A within-subject experiment with 67 students suggests that this interface is more versatile than the current tabular interfaces typically used on OSNs. More important, it allows users to easily comprehend complex information and provides them with a more integrative, higher level understanding of their privacy settings. This research focuses on an important niche at the intersection of information representation, interface design, and OSN privacy.

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