June 24, 2021

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PowerCut and Obfuscator: An Exploration of the Design Space for Privacy-Preserving Interventions for Voice Assistants. (arXiv:1812.00263v4 [cs.HC] UPDATED)

The pervasive use of smart speakers has raised numerous privacy concerns.
While work to date provides an understanding of user perceptions of these
threats, limited research focuses on how we can mitigate these concerns, either
through redesigning the smart speaker or through dedicated privacy-preserving
interventions. In this paper, we present the design and prototyping of two
privacy-preserving interventions: `Obfuscator’ targeted at disabling recording
at the microphones, and `PowerCut’ targeted at disabling power to the smart
speaker. We present our findings from a technology probe study involving 24
households that interacted with our prototypes; the primary objective was to
gain a better understanding of the design space for technological interventions
that might address these concerns. Our data and findings reveal complex
trade-offs among utility, privacy, and usability and stresses the importance of
multi-functionality, aesthetics, ease-of-use, and form factor. We discuss the
implications of our findings for the development of subsequent interventions
and the future design of smart speakers.