Using Telemetry to Illuminate Policy Interactions: A Case Study with RequestPolicy

Justin Samuel

EECS Department
University of California, Berkeley
Technical Report No. UCB/EECS-2013-62
May 15, 2013

http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2013/EECS-2013-62.pdf

Modern websites perform many cross-site requests that can be detrimental to user privacy. Cross-site requests undermine privacy by allowing third-party websites—the websites that are the recipients of cross-site requests—to track a user’s browsing behavior. As a result, some users turn to browser extensions that give them control over these requests. One such extension, RequestPolicy, implements a default-deny policy for cross-site requests and provides users an interface through which they manage a whitelist to allow blocked requests. This approach breaks many websites and requires frequent user interaction.

We set out to gain insight into how RequestPolicy is used. We study RequestPolicy’s usage through an opt-in telemetry study. Over a period of 24 weeks, we collected data from more than 2,500 RequestPolicy users about how they interact with RequestPolicy. We use this data, user feedback, and our own experiences to guide a redesign of RequestPolicy.

Advisor: Vern Paxson


BibTeX citation:

@mastersthesis{Samuel:EECS-2013-62,
    Author = {Samuel, Justin},
    Title = {Using Telemetry to Illuminate Policy Interactions: A Case Study with RequestPolicy},
    School = {EECS Department, University of California, Berkeley},
    Year = {2013},
    Month = {May},
    URL = {http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2013/EECS-2013-62.html},
    Number = {UCB/EECS-2013-62},
    Abstract = {Modern websites perform many cross-site requests that can be detrimental to user privacy.
Cross-site requests undermine privacy by allowing third-party websites—the websites that
are the recipients of cross-site requests—to track a user’s browsing behavior. As a result,
some users turn to browser extensions that give them control over these requests. One
such extension, RequestPolicy, implements a default-deny policy for cross-site requests and
provides users an interface through which they manage a whitelist to allow blocked requests.
This approach breaks many websites and requires frequent user interaction.

We set out to gain insight into how RequestPolicy is used. We study RequestPolicy’s
usage through an opt-in telemetry study. Over a period of 24 weeks, we collected data from
more than 2,500 RequestPolicy users about how they interact with RequestPolicy. We use
this data, user feedback, and our own experiences to guide a redesign of RequestPolicy.}
}

EndNote citation:

%0 Thesis
%A Samuel, Justin
%T Using Telemetry to Illuminate Policy Interactions: A Case Study with RequestPolicy
%I EECS Department, University of California, Berkeley
%D 2013
%8 May 15
%@ UCB/EECS-2013-62
%U http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2013/EECS-2013-62.html
%F Samuel:EECS-2013-62