Visible to the public Peeling the Onion's User Experience Layer: Examining Naturalistic Use of the Tor Browser

TitlePeeling the Onion's User Experience Layer: Examining Naturalistic Use of the Tor Browser
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsGallagher, Kevin, Patil, Sameer, Dolan-Gavitt, Brendan, McCoy, Damon, Memon, Nasir
Conference NameProceedings of the 2018 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security
Conference LocationNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-4503-5693-0
Keywordsanonymity, expert systems, human factors, privacy, pubcrawl, Scalability, Tor, Tor browser, usability, user experience, UX

The strength of an anonymity system depends on the number of users. Therefore, User eXperience (UX) and usability of these systems is of critical importance for boosting adoption and use. To this end, we carried out a study with 19 non-expert participants to investigate how users experience routine Web browsing via the Tor Browser, focusing particularly on encountered problems and frustrations. Using a mixed-methods quantitative and qualitative approach to study one week of naturalistic use of the Tor Browser, we uncovered a variety of UX issues, such as broken Web sites, latency, lack of common browsing conveniences, differential treatment of Tor traffic, incorrect geolocation, operational opacity, etc. We applied this insight to suggest a number of UX improvements that could mitigate the issues and reduce user frustration when using the Tor Browser.

Citation Keygallagher_peeling_2018