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Human Computer Interaction Research

The CO-OPS App

A Participatory Approach to Mobile Privacy & Security

Role: Lead Designer & Research Assistant

Project Type: Resarch

Duration: Septemeber - January 2020


Project Brief

Create a participatory design study in order to understand which features users would look for in an app developed to help communities protect their mobile data.

The Problem

Individuals are often lost when it comes to mobile privacy and security. The aim of this research study was to see if communities could help one another to protect mobile data. This study sought to see how willing people would be to share their own privacy and security practices and take advice from others.


This study sought to see how willing people would be to share their own privacy and security practices and take advice from others.

  • Design a participatory design study in order to collect data from groups who self identified as friends, family, or co-workers

  • Ask participants to work together to design a mobile app which serves the goal

  • Test a community oversight model to analyze groups' desire for transparency and awareness of privacy and security issues







Serve as a research assistant and lead designer with the following responsibilities: 

  • Design assets to be used in the study including storyboards and wireframes 

  • Contribute to publications accepted at CSCW and USEC

  • Design a mobile app to be tested in study's 2nd phase

  • Recruit participants 

  • Lead a participatory design study 

  • Create study assets and illustrations 

  • Condense findings into two research papers 

  • Develop an app based on findings 

  • Google Forms for study pre-screenings 

  • Google Docs for developing study scripts 

  • Adobe Illustrator for creating study assets 

  • Sketch for creating app prototypes 

The Process

The Process 

Over the course of this project, we recruited participants,  conducted a participatory design study, condensed findings into research papers, and designed an app to be used in the study's second phase.


Identify user needs and motivations in order to define effective solutions 

  • Create User Personas 

  • Define User Groups 

  • Perform Literature Review 


Create a study assets to allow participants to design an app

  • Create Story Boards 

  • Create Study Assets 

  • Create Mockups 


Test to ensure the discovery and design phases were effective

  • Usability Testing 

  • Iteration

Discovery Phase

User Research

The research question of whether or not communities could help one another protect mobile privacy and security was brought to individuals:

  • Participants were asked what information would help them make better privacy and security decisions and what information they would be willing to share

  • Participants were asked to design the features for a mobile app that would help them work together to make better decisions moving forward


You recently downloaded the app MoviePass which is a subscription service that allows you to watch an unlimited amount of movies every month for a set price. You open the app and see a pop-up that allows you to allow/deny MoviePass to track your location. You allow it and start using the service. 

After a few days, a friend shares a news article which announces that MoviePass has been collecting users' locations at all times without consumers knowing and selling this information to other companies for targeted advertisements. 

People are reacting to this news by uninstalling MoviePass. You feel that your privacy has been violated and you uninstall MoviePass. However, you miss the service MoviePass provided and are wondering if there are any other apps that serve a similar function that are safe to use. 

Semi-Structured Interview Questions

  • What type of information is useful to have from your community in order to make privacy decisions?

  • What type of information would you be willing to share with people to help them make decisions?

  • What factors will motivate people to use this app?

  • Who do you consider to be part of your community?


Participants were brought in with those they would consider to be a community group: co-workers, friends, or family. 

In addition, participants ranged in age, gender, and familiarity with technology. 


4 Friend Groups

2 Co-Worker Groups

7 Family Groups

On average, groups consisted of three individuals with the youngest participant being ten years old and the oldest being 80 years old. 


User Perspective on Community Research Model


The study sought to identify who participants viewed as being members of their community. More specifically, those who they would be comfortable sharing privacy and security information with. 

 “Actually, I was thinking that you could have a local and global, because if no one in your areas has the app, then it’s hard to say whether it is useful or not so if you have a global that might be a little more useful.” -P25

Participants defied expectations and viewed community more largely than the groups they had entered the study with.




The issue of transparency was brought up in order to identify how comfortable individuals were with sharing the apps they had on their phone and the privacy and security settings of those apps.

"I would use that type of app on medical for myself or for my father who is elderly. I could enter something in regard to cancer for a family member or just out of curiosity, so I could have basic knowledge. Someone could see that and assume that I'm dealing with that or I'm suffering." -P12
"And you would want that information to stay private?" -R1
"Right.” -P12


When asked about what information participants would like to see from their community members to help them make more informed decisions, all 32 participants said that they would like to read reviews about different apps provided by either their community members or strangers

“I mean I think this would have to be like a family plan or because you know, P4 is my friend but I don't want to be tracking what apps she downloaded, like I don't care. My son, yes I do care, maybe my mom or dad maybe they don't really know what's going on yes, but it would have to be very very private” -P5

Design Phase

Developing a Style Guide

Once findings were consolidated, work began on the next phase of the design study -- implementing research into a digital prototype which was comprised of features thought of by our participants.
The visual style of the app was not intended to be bold enough to distract from these features, yet the app needed to appear production ready in order to not have participants question its integrity.














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High Fidelity Prototypes 

Below are high fidelity prototypes for the mobile experience. Screens shown represent the high fidelity prototypes tested in the study's second phase.



An understanding of a human-centered research process.

  • A mobile app prototype that condenses the findings of our participants

  • Two papers published at the Workshop of Usable Security and Privacy (USEC) and the Conference of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

  • Presentations at Human Factors and Applied Psychology (HFAP), Information Architecture Convention (IA) and NSF's Secure and Trustworthy Computing (SaTC) meeting


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