Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker

Anyone within range of an 802.11 wireless network (Wi-Fi) can use free software to collect the unencrypted web traffic of others on the network. However, many Wi-Fi users are completely unaware of the risk that this creates. This project aims to improve people's awareness of what they expose to others on Wi-Fi networks and provide them with some control. In a style similar to that of a stock or news ticker, the Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker displays information about the unencrypted exposure of terms that the user has asked it to monitor. In addition, the system outright prevents the unencrypted transmission of terms that the user has identified as being highly sensitive. In a 3-week field study with 17 participants, we found that the Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker improved participants' awareness of the circumstances in which their personal information is transmitted and contributed to changes in their behavior while on Wi-Fi. 

The Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker was designed based on results from a 4-week field study that investigated people's understanding of and concerns about Wi-Fi use.

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The Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker on a user's laptop

The Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker's Ticker display sits above the user's task bar. The call-outs show some of the terms and indicators that are currently visible; from left to right: Watch List term, "patriciaticker@webmail.com" was sent out in the clear by "eventplanningsite.com," and "<Patricia's password>" was sent out in the clear by IP address "123.45.67.89;" the Wi-Fi Network Status Indicator reflects that the user is currently connected to an "Open Network"--that is, one that does not employ any encryption schemes.

Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker-Related Publications

S. Consolvo, J. Jung, G. Maganis, P. Powledge, B. Greenstein, & D. Avrahami. “The Wi-Fi Privacy Ticker: Improving Awareness & Control of Personal Information Exposure on Wi-Fi,” Proceedings of the 12th ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing: UbiComp ’10, Copenhagen, Denmark, (2010), pp. 321-30.

P. Klasnja, S. Consolvo, J. Jung, B. Greenstein, L. LeGrand, P.S. Powledge, & D. Wetherall. " ‘When I am on Wi-Fi, I am Fearless:’ Privacy Concerns & Practices in Everyday Wi-Fi Use,” Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: CHI ‘09, (2009), pp. 1993-2002.