Use of a P3P User Agent by Early Adopters


The Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), provides a standard computer-readable format for privacy policies and a protocol that enables web browsers to read and process privacy policies automatically. P3P enables machine-readable privacy policies that can be retrieved automatically by web browsers and other user agent tools that can display symbols, prompt users, or take other appropriate actions. We developed the AT&T Privacy Bird as a P3P user agent that can compare P3P policies against the user's privacy preferences. Since P3P was adopted as a W3C recommendation in April 2002, little work has been done to study how it is being used and, especially, its impact on users. Many questions have been raised about whether and how Internet users will make use of P3P, and how to build P3P user agents that will prove most useful to end users. In this paper we first provide a brief introduction to P3P and the AT&T Privacy Bird. Then we discuss a survey of AT&T Privacy Bird users that we conducted in August 2002. We found that a large proportion of AT&T Privacy Bird users began reading privacy policies more often and being more proactive about protecting their privacy as a result of using this software. Unfortunately, the usefulness of P3P user agents is severely limited by the number of web sites that have implemented P3P. Our survey results also suggest that if it becomes easier to compare privacy policy across e-commerce web sites, a significant group of consumers would likely use this information in their purchase decisions.


Lorrie Faith Cranor, Manjula Arjula, and Praveen Guduru. Use of a P3P User Agent by Early Adopters. In Proceedings of the ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society, November 21, 2002.

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Lorrie Faith Cranor