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Privacy and Security in the Brave New World: The Use of Multiple Mental Models



Susanne M. Furman, Mary F. Theofanos, Brian C. Stanton, Sandra S. Prettyman


We live in a world where the flow of electronic information and communication has become a ubiquitous part of our everyday life. While our lives are enhanced in many ways, we also experience a myriad of challenges especially to our priva-cy and security. Survey data shows that the majority of people are ‘very con-cerned’ about privacy and security but that they don’t always act in ways to pro-tect their privacy. Our goal was to explore how participants understand and expe-rience privacy and security as they engage in online activities. To that end we used a qualitative approach to understand user’s mental models of online privacy and security. The data from our 40 interviews show that users have multiple men-tal models that guide their understanding of and experience with privacy and se-curity. These mental models not only operate simultaneously but are rarely fully formed and often contradict each other.
Proceedings Title
HCII 2015
Conference Dates
August 3-7, 2015
Conference Location
Los Angeles, CA


mental models, online and computer privacy and security, qualitative study


Furman, S. , Theofanos, M. , Stanton, B. and Prettyman, S. (2015), Privacy and Security in the Brave New World: The Use of Multiple Mental Models, HCII 2015, Los Angeles, CA, [online], (Accessed April 25, 2024)
Created July 21, 2015, Updated November 10, 2018