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Comparing User Perceptions of Anti-Stalkerware Apps with the Technical Reality

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-11-29, 18:21 authored by Matthias FasslMatthias Fassl, Simon AnellSimon Anell, Sabine Houy, Martina Lindorfer, Katharina KrombholzKatharina Krombholz
Every year an increasing number of users face stalkerware on their phones. Many of them are victims of intimate partner surveillance (IPS) who are unsure how to identify or remove stalkerware from their phones. An intuitive approach would be to choose anti-stalkerware from the app store. However, a mismatch between user expectations and the technical capabilities can produce an illusion of security and risk compensation behavior (i.e., the Peltzmann effect). We compare users' perceptions of anti-stalkerware with the technical reality. First, we applied thematic analysis to app reviews to analyze user perceptions. Then, we performed a cognitive walkthrough of two prominent anti-stalkerware apps available on the Google PlayStore and reverse-engineered them to understand their detection features. Our results suggest that users base their trust on the look and feel of the app, the number and type of alerts, and the apps' affordances. We also found that app capabilities do not correspond to the users' perceptions and expectations, impacting their practical effectiveness. We discuss different stakeholders' options to remedy these challenges and better align user perceptions with the technical reality.


Preferred Citation

Matthias Fassl, Simon Anell, Sabine Houy, Martina Lindorfer and Katharina Krombholz. Comparing User Perceptions of Anti-Stalkerware Apps with the Technical Reality. In: Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS). 2022.

Primary Research Area

  • Empirical and Behavioral Security

Name of Conference

Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS)

Legacy Posted Date


Open Access Type

  • Gold


@inproceedings{cispa_all_3713, title = "Comparing User Perceptions of Anti-Stalkerware Apps with the Technical Reality", author = "Fassl, Matthias and Anell, Simon and Houy, Sabine and Lindorfer, Martina and Krombholz, Katharina", booktitle="{Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS)}", year="2022", }

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