Internet users can be manipulated into sharing private info: Study

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Online users are more likely to reveal private information based on how website forms are structured to elicit data, new research has found.

The researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel showed that by using digital “foot-in-the-door” techniques, such as requesting personal information from less important to more private (ascending privacy-intrusion order), websites can successfully entice users to reveal more of their private information.

Similarly, by placing each request on consecutive, separate webpages, users are more likely to reveal more private data.

Websites can further manipulate their users by spreading out information requests over the course of several pages, rather than consolidating all requests on one page.

For the study, the researchers collaborated with Rewire, a Tel Aviv neobank (a virtual or online bank) providing international money transfer services.

They examined the activities of around 2,500 users who were asked to provide their country, full name, phone number, and email address as part of the sign-up process.

“We found that both manipulations independently increased the likelihood of sign-up and conversion,” said Professor Lior Fink, head of the BGU Behavioral Information Technologies (BIT) Lab.

“The ascending privacy intrusion manipulation increased sign-up by 35 per cent and the multiple-page manipulation increased sign-up by 55 per cent.”

The research was presented at the 41st International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2020), held virtually this year from December 12-16.

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