Input on survey about privacy as part of collaboration with SIDN fund

Dear /e/-users and other participants on this forum,

I am currently developing a survey for /e/ about privacy on mobile phones as part of a collaboration between /e/ and the Dutch SIDN fund. SIDN Fund is an independent foundation established by SIDN, the foundation for internet domain registration in the Netherlands. Since 2014, this fund has supported over 150 innovative projects that help build a stronger, better and safer Internet for all. More information about the project will follow on official /e/-channels, and you can already look it up in Dutch on the website of SIDN fund !

The goal of this survey is to discover how much people know about privacy (problems) on their mobile phones and what they find important in that respect. This post is to ask you for your input: what kind of questions would be worth asking people around this topic?

Thank you for your suggestions and help!

Rik

ps for link to this post in Dutch see: Input gezocht voor enquête over privacy als onderdeel van samenwerking met SIDN fonds
ps2 for links to official /e/ announcements: https://e.foundation/e-foundation-announces-financial-grant-from-sidn-fund/ and An integrated "privacy center" for Android, and improve PWA app support

Regain your privacy! Adopt /e/ the unGoogled mobile OS and online servicesphone

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Starting with a few of the basic questions:

  1. Are you aware that Android is owned by Google?

  2. Are you aware that Instagram and Whatsapp are owned by Facebook?

  3. Are you aware of how companies like Google or Facebook make profit?

  4. Are you aware that information collected about you is shared with third parties, including foreign companies and governments?

  5. Are you aware of any historical events that happened because of information being misused?

Technical but still basic:

  1. Are you aware that your smartphone monitors what apps you have (ever) installed and with what frequency you use them?

  2. Are you aware that your smartphone monitors your activities, including recording audio and geolocation, even when you are not using it?

  3. Are you aware that many apps installed contain tracking mechanisms to further monitor your usage within the app?

  4. Are you aware that services like Gmail routinely read your emails to better identify you and sell your information to third parties?

  5. Do you know what targeted advertisement is?

  6. Are you aware that online advertisements can and are used to uniquely identify you while browsing the web online?

  7. Are you aware that most websites you visit today continue to track you even after you leave?

  8. Are you aware that you can be uniquely identify by your browsing history?

  9. Are you aware that stores around you record your device’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals when you are nearby to know how frequently you visit them and what parts of the store are you most interested in?

  10. Are you aware that other electronic devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home are continuously recording everything around them?

Politically inclined questions:

  1. Are you aware that tracking technologies such as face recognition can be used to uniquely identify you from among a large group of people, such as football games and demonstrations?

  2. Are you aware that Facebook developed algorithms used to uniquely identify you by the dust in your camera lenses?

There could be more political questions involved like do you know who Edward Snowden is, etc but those should probably be written with more care…

Actionable questions:

  1. Do you feel like there is nothing you can do because “they already know everything about you”?

  2. Do you know what are your rights concerning privacy?

  3. Are you aware that you can download the information that services like Google has gathered about you?

  4. Do you you know how you can better protect your privacy online?

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These are all questions pointing to very relevant aspects of privacy in the use of a mobile phone (or other devices). But my feeling is that the general public might have some uneasy feelings about privacy, but is not able to specify that in a concrete way.

For the PWA center I think it is better to ask the privacy knowledgeable persons what the PWA center [edit: Privacy Central App] needs to monitor, and what would be a good user interface / presentation to raise more awareness in the general public. And what would be a ‘killer’ function that will entice millions of people to download it.

This is thinking aloud. Again with much appreciation for the good questions. But maybe it will be helpful to distinguish basic privacy matter, intermediate, and complex privacy matters. For instance, all the technical contacts with Google servers I see as basic. Trackers are basic, and much discussed. Fingerprinting a browser I see as an example of a very complex problem. The new PWA app needs tight focus and boundaries to begin with.

Thinking aloud as well.
One key question, in order to get info from the survey, could be if the interviewed knows the books/works from Zubhoff. Snowden and Assange just to name a few outstanding authors.

thanks for the input @nottolino, @HenkK and @PNJ88_Beast ! Any others with recommendations or suggestions?

Heavy topic, @Rik. So many ideas, but all coming suddenly. I need time to organize them properly. And clear myself too.

for links to official /e/ announcements: https://e.foundation/e-foundation-announces-financial-grant-from-sidn-fund/ and An integrated "privacy center" for Android, and improve PWA app support

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Great initiative @Rik …a lot of people talk about privacy and everyone has their own interpretation of what it means or should mean. Good to start with some simple questions as shared in this thread.

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That’s why @PNJ88_Beast has such great questions. They will stimulate such members of the public to think in a more focused way.

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@Rik Do you already have some format that you are planning to adhere to? It would probably help to know this in order to formulate more relevant questions. I think it’s important to approach these questions with the purpose of introducing the notion of privacy to the interviewee, not by citing books and lectures, but by incentivizing the idea to know more about it. Simple questions that are actually simple to find an answer for, searching online for a few minutes.

I agree that most people have a basic understanding of what privacy is, but don’t really know how to express it. Many don’t do anything about it because they feel it’s a lost cause already. Some sort of structure when presenting the questions might help people in have a different perspective next time the topic is brought up to them.

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I sometimes had the opportunity to lay down the questions and structure of a survey.
Not an easy task, which requires specialistic skills in the formulation of the questions.

The problem I see in the questions of @PNJ88_Beast is that are written by someone who have a strong position on privacy, which eventually may lead to collect only some kind of answers, thus emptying the very aim of the survey: getting as much as possible an unbiased result on the matter.

While I was reading the questions, a “bravo” come naturally to my lips. But my appreciation was only the results of my opinions on the matter, and not on the correctness of the questions in order to get insight on the matter

I include myself in those with strong positions, of course, and I will gladly participate and warmly answer to such questions. This is also the reason why I told @Rik I need to clear my thought on the matter.

I’m not so sure that my wife or my friends will finish such a sequence of quite clearly oriented questions without irritation.

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All these are great news. Bravo!

Rick, with all respect, I am a little puzzled by this goal.

Assuming people would say they know of all the privacy problems (risks). Could this be considered a valuable answer if they do not take steps to protect themselves from the risks, as we can witness around us every day?
I mean, do you really know the extent of problems and risks if you do not take measures to protect yourself from, when other informed persons insist on the need to protect oneself?

I guess people will probably say that geolocation tracking is a risk. That doesn’t mean that they really know the problem. They will really know it once a journalist call them and tell them, from leaked documents, where they live, where they work, what they did on Sunday and where their kids go to school (re: NY Times Privacy project) and then take steps to protect themselves.

Alternatively, assuming people do not really know much about the privacy risks, how valuable will it be to know what these unaware users feel important?

I think that the first step would be to obtain, from privacy experts and associations, a list of the important steps to take in protecting oneself. Then ask to users if they have taken those steps.

I hope this helps you validate you are starting in the good direction.

I searched on Duckduckgo for ‘smartphone privacy awareness study’ and found several links to documents and studies on the question, such as this or that and probably others. Some of them already list the questions asked. This could be helpful.

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Great Rik, congrats for having won the project. Whom do you want to address the questions to? How do you thonk are going to reach out with your questionnare?

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Additional question: could this be a base for an app? I would like to have an app which checks these interesting aspects and provides solutions. This would even a good thing on an OS which addresses privacy.on the home page with “It is time to regain control over our personal data on our phones!”. OK, but control needs tools.

I know, there will not be an easy solution for all of these questions the Beast asked above, especially because of the many involved processes and technologies.

I think there are a lot of people who are interested but not sure and who don’t have all the background knowledge. For them it would be great to point directly on these problems: look, your device does indeed … and …, this is not good because of …, think about it, you could do … and …

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hi @PNJ88_Beast , no not yet, but happy to hear suggestions from you! I think it will be part multiple-choice and part open questions, to really get people’s input. I think also part will be very basic and open questions about privacy and mobile phones, while others will test more specific people’s knowledge about things like open-source and specific privacy-items like PWAs.

hee @PNJ88_Beast , 2 more great suggestions. It would be great to get your input on both: the simple questions to introduce the notion of privacy as well as the structure for presenting the questions!

yes good question, @ralxx and also @nottolino, this will be the main challenge of the survey: to make one that both people who already know a lot about privacy and people who do not, can fill out. And to get useful information from this combination of groups. Really happy to get suggestions for how to approach this.
PS we will use Nextcloud Forms for the survey

haha this is the main purpose of this project @irrlicht, to develop a “Privacy Center” app! The survey is meant to inform its development. See here: https://www.sidnfonds.nl/projecten/privacy-central-app-en-pwa-support-in-e-app-store-en-os

Hi @Rik. I am still questioning myself about a possible outcome of a questionnaire and its added value for you.
My impression is that - roughly spoken - there will be two user groups.

  • On one hand side people like the ones being present here in the forum (with a quite differentiated view on the issue and probably suggestions how they imagine a privacy app, with maybe even specific suggestions for functionality and usability).
  • On the other side people who might care for privacy but to whom the whole topic is for to complex or who have no time (they might be happy about an additional privacy tool as long as they just need to turn it on and aren’t bothered anymore)
  • A third groups are probably all those who do not care at all.

The 2nd group mentioned should be probably the target group of a privacy, but I don#t think you need to apprach them unless the tool is ready to ship.

The first group (the geeks) is the one could help probably the most shaping an eventual product and can potentially provide the most valuable input at an early stage of the privacy app. How to reach them? Forum/WebsitesTelegramGroups of projects like XDA, F-Droid, Exodus Privacy, Blokada, Element, Tor. Furthermore I’d get in touch in Germany with the CCC (https://www.ccc.de/) they are extremely well connected.
I did not come up yet with questions to ask. But it’ll come…

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