Dean's Lecture

"I'm Very Concerned About the Privacy of My Users:" Privacy as a Practice in Mobile App Development

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
4:10 pm to 5:30 pm
Katie Shilton, University of Maryland

"I'm Very Concerned About the Privacy of My Users"

“I'm Very Concerned About the Privacy of My Users:” Privacy as a Practice in Mobile App Development

Privacy is a critical challenge for mobile application development. Mobile applications are easy to build and distribute, and can collect diverse personal data. US policy approaches to data protection in the mobile ecosystem rely on privacy by design: approaches that encourage developers to proactively implement best-practice privacy features to protect sensitive data. But we don’t know what factors motivate developers to implement privacy features when faced with disincentives such as longer development timelines, markets for personal data, and tensions between data protection and data-enabled services. This project begins to identify these factors by investigating how mobile developers talk about and deal with privacy challenges. Interviews with developers and analysis of posts on developer forums reveal that developers are actively grappling with privacy issues. This talk will describe how developers define and legitimate privacy, and describe how knowledge of how to approach privacy problems is disseminated. Understanding the development of privacy as a professional practice can help us shape better guidelines for privacy by design, and broach challenges to the widespread adoption of privacy by design principles.

Katie Shilton is an assistant professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research explores ethics and policy for the design of information collections, systems and technologies. Current research projects include an investigation of ethics in mobile application development; a project focused on the values and policy implications of Named Data Networking, a new approach to Internet architecture; surveys of consumer privacy expectations in the mobile data ecosystem; and investigating researchers’ ethical beliefs and practices when using online open data sets. Her work has been supported by a Google Faculty Award and several awards from the U.S. National Science Foundation, including an NSF CAREER award. Katie received a B.A. from Oberlin College, a Master of Library and Information Science from UCLA, and a Ph.D. in information studies from UCLA.

Last updated:

August 23, 2016