Whether we are looking for a restaurant tip, researching health information, or scrolling through social media posts, algorithms use the personal data they gather on us to determine what we are shown online. But how aware are people of the impact algorithms have on their digital environments? And what are their attitudes to personalized online services and data privacy? A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University of Bristol has conducted a survey of 1,065 people in Germany to address these questions.
To ensure that our online experience is closely tailored to our interests and preferences, algorithms collect our personal data and analyze our online behavior. The data collected are used to infer sensitive information and to shape our digital environments.
The personalized advertising, product recommendations, and search engine results generated by algorithms then impact the decisions we make.
The findings of a representative online survey conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University of Bristol show that most Germans are well aware that artificial intelligence is used on the internet. And they accept customization in the contexts of shopping, entertainment, or search engine results.
But the survey results also show that internet users are against the personalization of news sources or political campaigning online. Although Germans have serious concerns about data privacy and most of them object to the use of their personal data, many respondents are willing to accept some personalized services. At the same time, only few of them are aware of and make use of available privacy measures.
In detail, the survey shows that 86% of respondents have a fair idea of what the term “artificial intelligence” means. 70% are aware that artificial intelligence is used in smart assistants such as Siri or Alexa. Fewer than 60% are aware that artificial intelligence is also used to rank results on search engines and to customize advertising on social media.
Whether people are aware of and accept the personalization of services depends very much on the content in question. For example, 80% consider personalized recommendations of restaurants, movies, or music to be somewhat acceptable or very acceptable. In other contexts, acceptance is much lower: just 39% for personalized messages from political campaigns and 43% for customized posts in social media feeds.
In contrast, there is widespread opposition to the use of sensitive personal information such as sexual orientation, religious views, or personal events for purposes of personalization. Only age and gender information is considered fair game by most respondents (59% and 64%, respectively). Similarly, over 80% of respondents disagree with web services and applications using the content of e-mails and online messages to personalize online interactions.
“There is a clear discrepancy in attitudes here. On the one hand, most people accept customized entertainment recommendations, search results, and advertising. On the other hand, they are unhappy with the data that is currently collected to provide this kind of personalization,” says Stefan Herzog, head of the research area “Boosting Decision Making” at the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
A discrepancy also emerges between German internet users’ attitudes to data privacy and their online behavior. 82% of respondents report being very or somewhat concerned about their data privacy on the internet. But only relatively few make changes to protect their privacy online. Just 37% report using privacy settings on online platforms.
And 20% have not engaged with privacy settings or used privacy tools within the past year. “Despite their concerns about data privacy, few users actually take measures to protect themselves. For that to change, the data privacy functions of online services should be more easily accessible, explained in simpler terms, and made easier to use,” says Anastasia Kozyreva, researcher at the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
Respondents across the political spectrum agree on which customized services are acceptable and which are not. The same applies to the collection and use of sensitive information. Most people share similar levels of concern about data privacy. “It is very interesting that we don’t see any political polarization in attitudes towards personalization and privacy. Policies aimed at protecting online privacy and regulating personalization would meet with broad approval independent of users’ political leanings,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Bristol.
The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin was founded in 1963. It is an interdisciplinary research institution dedicated to the study of human development and education. The Institute belongs to the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, one of the leading organizations for basic research in Europe.
Kozyreva, A., Herzog, S., Lorenz-Spreen, P., Hertwig, R., & Lewandowsky, S.(2020). Artificial intelligence in online environments: Representative survey of public attitudes in Germany. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for Human Development. https://dx.doi.org/10.17617/2.3188061
Kerstin Skork | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
Plant identification increased tenfold with Flora Incognita App in March
03.04.2020 | Technische Universität Ilmenau
AI finds 2D materials in the blink of an eye
02.04.2020 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
Electrolytes play a key role in many areas: They are crucial for the storage of energy in our body as well as in batteries. In order to release energy, ions - charged atoms - must move in a liquid such as water. Until now the precise mechanism by which they move through the atoms and molecules of the electrolyte has, however, remained largely unknown. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now shown that the electrical resistance of an electrolyte, which is determined by the motion of ions, can be traced back to microscopic vibrations of these dissolved ions.
In chemistry, common table salt is also known as sodium chloride. If this salt is dissolved in water, sodium and chloride atoms dissolve as positively or...
Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.
Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...
90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous
An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...
The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.
One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...
An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.
A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...
06.04.2020 | Event News
02.04.2020 | Event News
26.03.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Life Sciences
06.04.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
06.04.2020 | Social Sciences