17-734   Usable Privacy and Security

Location: Pittsburgh

Units: 12

Semester Offered: Spring

Course description

There is growing recognition that technology alone will not provide all of the solutions to security and privacy problems. Human factors play an essential role in these areas, and it is important for security and privacy experts to have an understanding of how people will interact with the systems they develop. This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of usability and user-interface problems related to privacy and security and to give them experience in understanding and designing studies aimed at helping to evaluate usability issues in security and privacy systems. The course is suitable both for students interested in privacy and security who would like to learn more about usability, as well as for students interested in usability who would like to learn more about security and privacy. All students will work in small teams on a group project throughout the semester.

Students enrolled in this course will be required to read and comment on a research paper each week in addition to the other assignments.

Learning objectives

  • Gain an appreciation for the importance of usability within security and privacy
  • Learn about current research in usable privacy and security
  • Learn how to conduct usability studies
  • Learn how to critically examine UPS studies


The course is open to all students who have at least some technical background (e.g. an undergraduate computer programming course).

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Lorrie Cranor