Supporting Data Security and Privacy in the Home

Dates: Completed May 2018.

Lead researchers: Professor Ivan Flechais, University of Oxford


This project investigated social relationships and their role in home data security. It involved an exploration of how people make decisions based on 50 semi-structured interviews with UK home users that focused on security decision-making.

The research found that there is a complex culture around responsibility and duty of care. Home users take initiatives to protect themselves, but some also assume responsibility for others, though they are far more likely to offer unsolicited advice to family members than to friends. Those who offer advice feel the need to make good on situations where they have offered bad advice, a responsibility that is determined by the social relationship.

Policy implications: 

This work helped to uncover some of the motivations behind the prevalence of informal technical support. It highlighted the importance of targeting people who help others when crafting an intervention targeting home users and this has particular relevance for the NCSC and for Government departments focused on consumer security.


Interviews, surveys, grounded theory

Funders: RISCS

Follow on work: This project laid the foundation for a follow-on project funded by the Information Commissioner’s Office, called “Informing the future of data protection by design and by default in smart homes” which aims to understand and investigate user needs related to how smart home currently devices handle, process and use personal data during their operation, and to identify potential ways future devices might more responsibly do so in the future. The work included a longitudinal study of smart home device use in order to explore the usability, security, and privacy aspects of communal device use, interviews with employees of a large UK-based smart home company to identify priorities and needs, and the prototyping and field deployment of technology probes to explore new data protection approaches and concepts. Based on the results, the researchers proposed user-centred design guidelines and recommendations to improve data protection in smart homes. The findings of this study are available on a paper about the future of data protection by design and by default in smart homes:


Posted on

December 9, 2021