A member of Mississippi State University's business faculty is receiving international recognition for research focusing on the increasing need for privacy protection in today's digital society.
Robert E. Crossler, assistant professor of information systems, recently was named a co-winner of the 2013 Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences Information Systems Society's Design Science Award. He shares the honor with France Bélanger of Virginia Tech University.
The award resulted from an international competition dedicated to promoting and recognizing the discovery and design of innovative information technology artifacts by university researchers and educators.
Crossler and Bélanger were recognized for collaborative research that spanned nearly a decade and targeted the improvement of information privacy practices for individuals. Their award-winning project was titled "Privacy that Matters: Designing IT Artifacts for Privacy Protection."
Crossler, who joined MSU's College of Business in 2012, holds a doctorate in accounting and information systems from Virginia Tech. His also received a bachelor's degree in management information systems from the University of Idaho.
Bélanger is the R. B. Pamplin Professor and the Tom and Daisy Byrd Senior Faculty Fellow in the accounting and information systems department of VT's Pamplin College of Business.
Crossler said the subject of protecting information privacy is something that deeply concerns people worldwide.
"With the rapid computer technology advancements in today's society, the ability to protect our personal privacy is becoming much more limited," he observed. "We believe that through research, we can raise people's awareness of the importance of protecting your privacy as well as develop programs to help guard against the unwanted sharing of private information."
Research by Crossler and Bélanger is credited with sparking the idea to develop several computer add-ons and mobile device applications that would help improve an individual's privacy practices.
They first created a computer browser add-on tool called POCKET, or Parental Online Consent for Kids' Electronic Transactions. The automated browser tool provides parents with an easy and effective way to protect their children from disclosing private information to websites while unsupervised.
The team also developed another browser add-on tool called the Privacy Enhancing Support System, or PESS, that integrates three privacy-enhancing features to enable users to search, control their personal information, and review user ratings on the privacy practices of each domain visited.
Additionally, development of privacy enhancing add-on tools for personal computers led Crossler and Bélanger to also create a smartphone application for iOS operating systems. The Privacy Helper© 2013 app is designed to educate smartphone users about why many apps ask to share their information or track their location. It also gives users the option of choosing a menu-based text or voice-over format to guide them through the various privacy settings on their mobile device and the process of changing these settings to control the amount of information shared.
Crossler said plans are underway to address a compatible version of this app for the Android operating system in the future.
Their design of the Privacy Helper app paved the way for the creation of a program called Mobile Privacy Education Training and Awareness, or mPETA, that allows testing of Privacy Helper and different approaches to protect mobile privacy.
He said several organizations are already taking part in the mPETA testing, which has the potential of opening more doors for the team to further validate their research.
For more about the INFORMS ISS Design Science Award, visit http://mis.eller.arizona.edu/events/informs/winners/2013_winners.asp.
Information about Mississippi State University is available at www.msstate.edu.