Project Objectives:

This project aims to understand how and why people use location sharing applications and mobile social networks. One of the key focus areas in this domain is privacy management, understanding people’s concerns about their privacy and how can we help them manage their privacy according to their preferences. In addition to understanding how people have appropriated existing systems, the overall goal of the project is to introduce design principles and techniques that cater to people’s needs on e.g. self-representation, privacy, safety and sharing.

Technology Rationale:

Today’s smartphones have several options for location sensing, such as GPS, cellular network and WiFi. This has resulted in considerable growth of location-based services and also mobile social networks.  It is perceivable that in the near future, every mobile device will be location-enabled. Interestingly, despite over 20 years of location sharing research, there had not been much deployment until foursquare recently became popular (foursquare reports over 10 million users [aboutfoursquare]). Foursquare’s success finally gives researchers a considerable opportunity to study location sharing and mobile social networks at a large scale.

Technical Approach:

The technical approach is two-fold in this project. For existing systems, we use interviews and survey methods to both qualitatively and quantitatively probe users and usage. We also exercise user-centric methods to design, implement and study novel interaction techniques, privacy management interfaces and context-sharing systems.

Results To Date and Future Work Plan:

This project has led to papers in CHI’11 and HotMobile'11. We have reported both qualitatively and quantitatively how people have appropriated foursquare, and how they manage their privacy. See an example of check-in behavior on foursquare depicted in Figure 1. We have also designed and implemented novel user interfaces and interaction techniques to help people mitigate privacy concerns with location and context sharing, and are working towards large-scale deployment and user trials of these systems.

Figure 1 - Check-in behavior on foursquare