New paper: Non-use of Automated Border Control systems

In September I will have the opportunity to present a short paper about the non-use of Automated Border Control (ABC) systems at the British Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI 2014) in Southport. The overarching theme of the conference is ‘Sand, Sea and Sky – Holiday HCI’.

The paper is based on research within the FastPass project at two North-European airports with each between 50 and 60 million passengers per year. We carried out 155 face-to-face surveys to ask passengers about their experience with ABC and biometric systems. We also conducted in-depth expert interviews with border guards and border management and found that at the moment, usage of ABC systems does not live up to the projected scenarios.

The low uptake of a technology that has been in existence for several years, and that has become readily available at many European airports raised the question why so few travellers are using e-gates. In order for designers to build better systems with higher uptake by end-users they need to have a more thorough understanding of the non-users. Wyatt (2003) developed a theory about non-users of the Internet identifying four types of non-users: 1) The Resisters – those who do not want to use the technology; 2) The Rejecters – former users, who decided not to use the technology any longer; 3) The Excluded – those who can’t use the technology, regardless of whether they want to or not; and 4) The Expelled – former users who do not have access anymore (who stopped involuntarily)[1]. This paper investigates the reasons of non-use of Automated Border Control at European airports by applying Wyatt’s taxonomy and adding an “unawares” category. It also presents possible solutions to turn current non-users into future users of e-gates.

Oostveen, A. (2014) Non-use of Automated Border Control Systems: Identifying Reasons and Solutions. 28th British Human Computer Interaction Conference (HCI 2014). ‘Sand, Sea and Sky – Holiday HCI’, 9-12 September, Southport.


[1] Wyatt, S. (2003) ‘Non-users also matter: The construction of users and non-users of the Internet’ in Oudshoorn and Pinch (eds.) How Users Matter: The Co-construction of Users and Technology, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Progress Bar Blues

[Originally written for the Access Denied project]

Internet users living and working in areas with slow Internet speeds are per definition overly familiar with the ‘progress bar’. Wikipedia describes the progress bar as: “a graphical user interface used to visualize the progression of an extended computer operation, such as a download, file transfer, or installation”.






Progress bars come in many different shapes and sizes, but will be seen by those in Internet slow spots as a visualization of their frustration.


Interestingly, there is a whole UX (user experience) science behind the design of progress bars. Researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University note that human perception of time is fluid, and can therefore be manipulated [1]. Several design considerations and tricks can make progress bars appear faster and thereby improve users’ computing experience. UX Movement summarises the above mentioned study as follows (providing some clear illustrations in their post):

  1. Ribbings that move backwards and opposite to the progress direction feel faster to users.
  2. The more revolutions an activity indicator has, the faster loading time will feel to users.

Another study [2] found that:

  1. Pauses at the beginning of a progress are more tolerable to users than at the end. According to the researchers, a progress bar can cache progress when the operation is first starting to mitigate negative progress behaviors such as pauses or slow-downs later on. When you downplay actual progress in the beginning and then accelerate it towards the end, users have the feeling the process is speeding up, leaving them more satisfied.

The Carnegie Mellon researchers argue: “By minimizing negative behaviors and incorporating positive behaviors, one can effectively make progress bars and their associated processes appear faster”. Yet, no fancy designed progress bar – however cleverly manipulated – will reduce the frustrations felt when it takes up to 5 minutes to check a bank statement online due to inadequate broadband speeds. We can clearly use our time in far more satisfying ways…




[1] Harrison, C., Yeo, Z., and Hudson, S. E. 2010. Faster Progress Bars: Manipulating Perceived Duration with Visual Augmentations. In Proceedings of the 28th Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Atlanta, Georgia, April 10 – 15, 2010). CHI ’10. ACM, New York, NY. 1545-1548.

[2] Harrison, C., Amento, B., Kuznetsov, S., and Bell, R. 2007. Rethinking the progress bar. In Proceedings of the 20th Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Newport, Rhode Island, USA, October 07 – 10, 2007). UIST ’07. ACM, New York, NY. 115-118.


New Paper: ABC standardisation key to improving usability

This summer my colleague Mario Kaufmann from the Fraunhofer Institute will present a paper [1] based on our FastPass work at the Interfaces and Human Computer Interaction (IHCI) 2014 conference in Lisbon.

One task of the FastPass project is to study actual automated border control (ABC) systems and investigate how their usability and take-up can be improved. Although e-gates have been in use for years, they are still underutilized by travellers. The paper presents a usability analysis of ABC e-gates at two large North-European international airports and compares their ease of use.

Our observations show that the man-machine interface of e-gates is still under development. One important lesson to learn is that continued usability testing with real users after implementation is very important and will further enhance the system. The strong emphasis at one of the airports on usability and its ongoing testing means that the system is continuously being improved. As a respondent (from border management) remarked: “What we could not test of course was the passenger behaviour. You only notice it when you’re operating the gates. Things come up that we have not thought of, or that we see ‘that could be better’”.

A large proportion of (potential) e-gate users are infrequent travellers, therefore major component differences make it difficult for users to know how to interact with unfamiliar and dissimilar e-gates. Standardisation will be key to improve the usability for travellers and will raise user confidence. Positive experiences of users are vital as they lead to repeated use, and can have a favourable impact on the uptake of the technology by current non-users through word-of-mouth endorsement.

[1] Oostveen, A., M. Kaufmann, E. Krempel and G. Grasemann (2014) Automated Border Control: A Comparative Usability Study at Two European Airports. Interfaces and Human Computer Interaction (IHCI) 2014 Conference 15 – 17 July, Lisbon, Portugal.

New paper: Understanding Engagement With The Privacy Domain Through Design Research

Within the Google funded project ‘Privacy Trends’ a tool was developed that collects and aggregates online reports from social media platforms on the topic of privacy. The reports are summarized, visualized, and presented to everyday Internet users as a way to sensitize them on ongoing privacy violations. The design of this tool was informed by users’ needs; users were involved in the early design process, which resulted in a set of ‘requirements’ and design concepts. The project, led by Dr Mina Vasalou from the London Knowledge Lab, has now resulted in a first publication for the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST) to be published this year.

Screen shot of the privacy awareness application

Understanding Engagement With The Privacy Domain Through Design Research
Asimina Vasalou, Anne-Marie Oostveen, Chris Bowers, and Russell Beale

Abstract: The article reports findings from participatory design research aimed at uncovering how technological interventions can engage users in the domain of privacy. Our work was undertaken in the context of a new design concept “Privacy Trends” whose aspiration is to foster technology users’ digital literacy regarding ongoing privacy risks and elucidate how such risks fit within existing social, organizational and political systems, leading to a longer term privacy concern. Our study reveals two challenges for privacy intervention design: the need to develop technology users’ intrinsic motivations with the privacy domain and the importance of framing the concept of privacy within users’ interests. Setting our study within a design context enables us to identify four design opportunities for fostering engagement with the privacy domain through technology design.

Vasalou, A., A. Oostveen, C. Bowers and R. Beale (2014) Understanding Engagement With The Privacy Domain Through Design Research. Journal of the Association of Information Science and Technology (JASIST)

Crowdfunding to Support Young Researchers

My colleague Kathryn Eccles studies crowdsourcing in the field of cultural heritage resources, and the topic often comes up in our conversations. Usually we talk about the collective effort of individuals related to mass participation in the gathering, processing or interpretation of information. But today I received an email from the organizers of the International Summer School on “Information & Communication Technology for Democracy” to be held in New Delhi in March 2014, with a crowdfunding request to support their students. Just as with the broader concept of crowdsourcing, they hope to reach their goal by receiving small contributions from many parties.

The organizers have been able to secure funds for the keynote speakers, but it has proven impossible to get funding for the young researchers partaking. They explain on their campaign page that 30 Master and PhD students have been selected on the basis of the quality of their research. These students come from 15 different countries, among them many developing countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Egypt. The organizers want to provide free accommodation, food and ground transportation for their summer school students. To be able to do this, they need to raise 6500 US Dollars and they have only 55 days remaining to accomplish this.

I think it is important that all talented young researchers have the opportunity to meet colleagues to discuss their work with, and to build relationships with more senior researchers, activists, government officials, and practitioners. I am also interested in the topic of the summer school, having studied the role of ICTs in democracies and for civic participation myself. Therefore, I have donated a small amount. If you feel the same and can spare a couple of dollars, do visit the campaign website to make this crowdfunding exercise a success.


Social Media on the Motorway

In the 1990s the internet was often described as the ‘Information Highway’. Two decades on, the information highway has started to interfere with the real highway. One in three people in the Netherlands admit to using a smartphone for email and social media while driving their car. Whatsapp-achter-het-stuur-1 According to the Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid (a scientific research foundation investigating road safety issues) dozens of people die yearly due to smartphone use on the road and hundreds get injured. A simulator study by Basacik, Reed and Robbins (2012) has shown that the use of a smartphone while driving impairs driving performance more than taking drugs or drinking alcohol. The authors report that when people are sending and receiving Facebook messages their reaction times are slowed by around 38% and they often miss key events; drivers are also unable to maintain a central lane position resulting in an increased number of unintentional lane departures; and they are unable to respond as quickly to the car in front gradually changing speed. The risk of having an accident while using a smartphone increases by 25% (although some studies even quote a 160% increase). Illustrative of the dangers of smartphone use on the road was the 2011 BlackBerry service disruption in the United Arab Emirates: accidents dropped by 40 per cent in Abu Dhabi and by 20 per cent in Dubai due to the service outage [Wired, 2011].

Bord-social-media-1-1The government in the Netherlands has therefore set up a campaign to make people aware that ‘virtual traffic’ has no place in real traffic. In order to highlight the dangers of using smartphones behind the wheel, they have placed billboards along the motorway telling people to park their car before making a phone call or using Facebook, Twitter, or email. Without a doubt this government action is important and will save lives, but just warning people might not be enough. When driving in the Netherlands you frequently see big signs along and above the motorways telling you to check out the website ‘Van A naar Beter’ for the latest traffic information, road projects, and travel alternatives. This website is an initiative of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and has been advertised on motorways for years. showimage.phpHowever, directing citizens to websites (no matter how well-intentioned) is perhaps no longer advisable with over 4 million people owning a smartphone? And what can be done about the Quick Response (QR) codes that are popping up along the roads and on other vehicles? Many companies have discovered the new dimension that QR can bring to their consumer advertising. These barcodes link directly to text, websites, phone numbers and more. But scanning a QR code is pretty demanding stuff to be doing while at the wheel. You have to keep the camera steady and wait for the code to be scanned. If that isn’t an accident waiting to happen…

LeiderdorpIn Leiderdorp (NL) a large billboard displaying such a QR code and the message ‘WIN €10.000’ was removed because it proved to be too distracting for drivers. Invented in Japan in 1994 to track vehicles during manufacture, the codes are now displayed on cars and trucks as a marketing strategy (see pictures below). Should the law forbid the use of these QR codes along the roadside and on vehicles? Or should we assume that drivers will wise up and leave internet usage to their passengers? As the world around us changes rapidly, it will be difficult to keep up with appropriate policy and regulation!

QR_Auto[QR codes on a car in the Netherlands and on trucks in the United Kingdom and Japan]

The Great Switch-Over

Among my friends it is known that I am not one for big changes. I like to keep things the way they are (not taking into account the fact that I migrated to another country). I am also not one to care much for the latest gadgets. I have no digital television, no hands-free in the car, no tablet, no e-book reader, and no smartphone. This has caused many raised eyebrows among people I have met at conferences and project meetings. How can anyone working at the Oxford Internet Institute not be online 24/7? And yes, I probably am one of the very few at the OII who does not own an iPhone or Android phone (although I know of one Research Fellow who doesn’t own a mobile phone at all). In awe I watch people swipe their touch-screens and tilt their applications to change the orientation of the screen from portrait to landscape. I am old-fashioned, I am behind the times. I am the ultimate laggard. The end of the S-curve.laggard

When I interviewed students about privacy issues a couple of weeks ago I asked them a question about their phone use: what kind of phone do you have, and what do you use it for? It turned out all of them had a smartphone and used it for an endless list of applications (e.g. games, directions, texting, Facetime, Skype, downloading music, online banking, etc). However, several of the respondents forgot to mention the phone calls they make and receive, which for me is clearly the primary function of a mobile.

But times are changing. Even for a laggard like me. At the start of my new project I made the decision to change from a Windows laptop to a Mac. I felt it was time to learn how to use a Mac as most of the colleagues I work with have one. Whenever they ask me to do some simple task on their machine I get confused, as I have no idea how to use the touchpad, where to find the close button, or how to copy/paste a bit of text. So now I have been the proud owner of a gorgeous looking MacBook Air for a couple of months. And do I know how to use it yet? Am I typing this blog post on my fancy new apparatus? No. My excuse is that I have been too busy with ‘real’ work to find the time to become confident enough on the Mac to use it for my daily job. I watch BBC iPlayer programmes on it, I check my emails, I take it to project meetings as it is lovely light-weight, and I have been randomly fiddling about with it, but I have yet to create any documents on it or work on anything serious.

Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations theory attempts to explain which factors will influence the adoption of IT [1]. In order to use new technology end-users need to be convinced of its relative advantage, its ease of use, the way it might enhance their image or status, etc. Well, I don’t need to be convinced of how good-looking the Mac is, it is clear for everyone to see. And I have been told (repeatedly) by Mac-users how much better and more secure it is than any Windows laptop, and how easy it is to use once you get the hang of it. And that is precisely the problem. I think the Mac has quite a steep learning-curve when you have been a lifelong Windows user. It is not like buying a new car, getting in, and being able to drive off immediately because all the basic functions are the same as in any other car you’ve ever driven. It does take time to learn how to use the Mac proficiently, and hopefully I’ll find some time over the summer to get to grips with it.

[1] Rogers, E. M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, 6th edition, New York: Free Press.

Research in Practice: Observations and Surveys

In between my three “extreme interviewing Mondays” I have been to a European airport to conduct research for the FastPass project. The FastPass project aims to develop a harmonized, modular approach for Automated Border Control (ABC) gates. The first phase of the project focuses on key stakeholder needs and the documentation of operational-, system-, design- and security requirements to achieve more efficiency in all processes. The developed system should lead to harmonization of practices, positive passenger experience, and consistent security levels at different border crossing points (i.e. air, sea, land). Current installations and development projects are carefully examined to identify success factors and pitfalls. This means that we both observe and survey passengers using border control systems at several European airports and sea ports and that we interview border guards, staff representatives, ABC project & system managers, and border agency managers at these locations.

This week the emphasis has been on the passengers. For three days we had been granted permission to observe travellers using the automated border gates. We spent hours watching intently how travellers used ABCs in practice, taking notes of how they scanned their passports and went through the facial recognition system. We paid attention to the following issues: How do they approach the eGates (e.g. confident, hesitant)? Do they pay attention to the provided information leaflets? How easy/difficult do they find it to scan their passport? Do they know where to look to have their face scanned? Do they remove glasses and hats? How much luggage do they carry with them? Which part of the system causes problems? How often does the system reject people? Is help needed to get through the ABCs or are the gates easy to use without guidance? If help is needed, who provides it (e.g. other passengers, border guards, airport personnel)?

Besides observing the actual use of the system, we have also surveyed passengers about their experience with automated border control and biometric systems. We wanted to find out how they knew they were eligible to use the ABC’s, whether they were experienced or first-time users, why they chose to use the automated system instead of going through manual checkpoints, what problems they had encountered, and what their preferred biometric recognition method would be.

Our initial results show that there is clearly scope for a better designed system, with a more intuitive interface which will enhance the usability and increase the overall appeal of eGates for passengers.

Research in Practice: Extreme Interviewing

Together with colleagues from the University of Birmingham (Human-Computer Interaction Research Centre, Computer Science Department) and the University of Sheffield (Natural Language Processing Research Group, Computer Science Department) we have developed an application called Privacy Trends that queries Twitter, looking for stories written about a particular privacy risk or violation. It summarises the news articles it finds (using a natural language processing algorithm we have developed) so that users can get a quick overview of the issue. The aim of Privacy Trends is to engage Internet users with ongoing privacy problems that may be relevant to them, and to support their understanding of contemporary privacy issues more generally.

At the moment we are in the evaluation phase of this Google funded project and it is pretty full on! Today was the first day of the evaluation, with me and Principle Investigator Dr Mina Vasalou each scheduled to interview 10 participants. Although a couple of participants cancelled at the very last minute (this will always happen), we both still spent 8 hours with the remaining respondents. These 16 participants will be using the application daily in the coming two weeks and are interviewed on three consecutive Mondays.

During this pre-study interview we first explained the functionality of the Privacy Trends application, made sure that the participants have the right browsers installed on their laptops, and gave an overview of the Cookie setup for the study (which settings to tick, what information gets collected by us, and why). After these more practical issues, we needed to get an idea of their current technology use (e.g. What kind of mobile phone do you have? What do you use this phone for? Which Google products do you use? What do you use social media for? Who do you share information with? Have there been instances of misuse of the information you shared?). Their answers were sketched out in several models (see photo). The interviews were of course also recorded and will be fully transcribed.
Technology model

Besides reading a daily summary of news items and full texts of articles, the users are asked to annotate the news items with predefined labels and add stories to the site through which they can voice their own perspectives and reflections. Their use of the application is logged and will be used in the upcoming interviews as a prompt to recall and discuss their interaction with Privacy Trends.

Conducting 8 one-hour interviews on a single day is rather hardcore, but also gets you into a certain flow. It is interesting to see the similarities and the differences between respondent’s answers and to notice emerging themes. We are curious to see what will happen in the coming two weeks and hope the participants will truly engage with the application. Only two more marathon interview sessions to go…

Call for Papers: Social and Ethical Implications of Biometric Technology (IJICTHD)

SUBMISSION DUE DATE: November 1, 2013

SPECIAL ISSUE ON: Social and Ethical Implications of Biometric Technology

International Journal of Information Communication Technologies and Human Development (IJICTHD)

Guest Editor: Dr. Anne-Marie Oostveen

Biometric identifiers such as digital fingerprints, retinal scans, facial characteristics, gait, and vocal patterns are distinctive to each and every person and are considered more reliable and capable than the traditional token-based or knowledge-based technologies in differentiating between an authorized and a fraudulent person. This has prompted the use of biometrics for non-criminal governmental and commercial applications including immigration systems, airport security systems, employee time recording, social security entitlement, election management, access to healthcare records, banking transactions, national identification systems, and driver’s licensing programs.

The motivations behind the introduction of biometric technologies differ per country and context. Some believe that the technology will bring convenience, efficiency, and improved security. Others think that the technology will improve human development. An example of this is the Universal Identification (UID) program in India which should make it possible for the countries’ poor to prove that they are entitled to government welfare schemes. The program is seen as the largest social inclusion project in history making the Indian state more transparent and accountable to its citizens. However, opponents worry about abusive surveillance, particularly of political, ethnic, or religious minorities and argue that the technology is an infringement on human rights and freedom.

Biometric systems are maturing, becoming increasingly more pervasive and widely deployed. Because biometric technologies are based on measurements of physiological or behavioural characteristics of the human body and the collection and storage of personal data, many questions are raised, which relate to the protection of individual values such as privacy, autonomy, bodily integrity, dignity, equity and personal liberty. The ethical concerns regarding this emerging technology need to be acknowledged and brought into the public discourse. The main objective of this special issue is to provide a platform to stimulate a discussion on biometrics use and its cultural, moral, and social ramifications.

This special issue calls for original papers describing societal advantages or disadvantages of biometrics, and the ethical implications of the latest developments of biometric technology and its applications. We especially encourage empirical studies. Topics of interests include, but are not limited to:
Public attitudes toward biometric technology:
o Privacy concerns
o Trust issues
o Religious objections to the use of biometrics
o Cultural perspectives
o The effects of non-participation
Issues surrounding the centralization of biometric identification information:
o Data protection
o Security
o Informed consent
Misuse or compromise of biometric data:
o Identity theft
o Function creep
o Covert surveillance/tracking
o Proportionality and appropriateness of biometric solutions
Physical intrusiveness of the technology:
o Integrity of the human body
o Risk to health
o Recognition of medical conditions
o Stigmatization
Case studies on various biometric technologies (e.g. facial recognition in smart CCTV systems in public places, fingerprinting of children in schools, biometrics for automated border control, biometric voter registration (BVR) systems to combat voter fraud)

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit papers for this special theme issue Social and Ethical Implications of Biometric Technology on or before November 1, 2013. All submissions must be original and may not be under review by another publication. INTERESTED AUTHORS SHOULD CONSULT THE JOURNAL’S GUIDELINES FOR MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSIONS at All submitted papers will be reviewed on a double-blind, peer review basis. Papers must follow APA style for reference citations.

Information and communication technologies are directly influencing the way human beings are engaging themselves in their routine activities. The governance including socio-economic environment needs a catalyst for social change for human development. Currently, technologies are required to play the role of a catalyst to bring this social change for human development. The International Journal of Information Communication Technologies and Human Development (IJICTHD) will compile theoretical and empirical works that significantly contribute to the still unexplored field of how ICTs can make a difference in the lives of human beings and contribute to human development.

This journal is an official publication of the Information Resources Management Association

Editors-in-Chief: Dr Susheel Chhabra and Dr Hakikur Rahman
Published: Quarterly (both in Print and Electronic form)

All submissions should be directed to the attention of:
Dr Anne-Marie Oostveen
Guest Editor
International Journal of Information Communication Technologies and Human Development

Call for Papers (PDF version)