"If You Can't Beat them, Join them": A Usability Approach to Interdependent Privacy in Cloud Apps


Cloud storage services, like Dropbox and Google Drive, have growing ecosystems of 3rd party apps that are designed to work with users' cloud files. Such apps often request full access to users' files, including files shared with collaborators. Hence, whenever a user grants access to a new vendor, she is inflicting a privacy loss on herself and on her collaborators too. Based on analyzing a real dataset of 183 Google Drive users and 131 third party apps, we discover that collaborators inflict a privacy loss which is at least 39% higher than what users themselves cause. We take a step toward minimizing this loss by introducing the concept of History-based decisions. Simply put, users are informed at decision time about the vendors which have been previously granted access to their data. Thus, they can reduce their privacy loss by not installing apps from new vendors whenever possible. Next, we realize this concept by introducing a new privacy indicator, which can be integrated within the cloud apps' authorization interface. Via a web experiment with 141 participants recruited from CrowdFlower, we show that our privacy indicator can significantly increase the user’s likelihood of choosing the app that minimizes her privacy loss. Finally, we explore the network effect of History-based decisions via a simulation on top of large collaboration networks. We demonstrate that adopting such a decision-making process is capable of reducing the growth of users' privacy loss by 70% in a Google Drive-based network and by 40% in an author collaboration network. This is despite the fact that we neither assume that users cooperate nor that they exhibit altruistic behavior. To our knowledge, our work is the first to provide quantifiable evidence of the privacy risk that collaborators pose in cloud apps. We are also the first to mitigate this problem via a usable privacy approach.

7th ACM Conference on Data and Applications Security and Privacy (CODASPY'17)