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AI browser plug-ins to help consumers improve digital privacy literacy, combat manipulative design

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Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are developing artificial intelligence tools that help consumers understand how they are being exploited as they navigate online platforms. The goal is to boost the digital literacy .
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are developing artificial intelligence tools that help consumers understand how they are being exploited as they navigate online platforms. The goal is to boost the digital literacy of end users so they can better control how they interact with these websites.
In a recent study appearing in Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, participants were invited to experiment with online privacy settings without consequence. To test how different data privacy settings work, the researchers created a Chrome browser plug-in called Privacy Sandbox that replaced participant data with personas generated by GPT-4, a large language model from OpenAI.
With Privacy Sandbox, participants could interact with different websites, such as social media platforms or news outlets. As they navigated to various sites, the browser plug-in applied AI-generated data, making it more obvious for participants to see how they were targeted based on their supposed age, race, location, income, household size and more.
“From a user perspective, allowing the platform’s access to private data may be appealing because you could get better content out of it, but once you turn it on, you cannot get that data back. Once you do, the site already knows where you live,” said Toby Li, assistant professor of computer science and engineering and a faculty affiliate at the Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society at Notre Dame, who led the research.

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