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Crossler Earns International Honor Through Information Technology Research

1-16-14 - Dr. Robert E. Crossler, assistant professor of Information Systems in the College of Business, was recently named a winner of the 2013 Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) Information Systems Society (ISS) Design Science Award within the research stream category, along with co-author and Virginia Tech professor Dr. France Bélanger.

The INFORMS ISS Design Science Award is an international competition dedicated to promote and recognize the discovery and design of innovative information technology artifacts by university researchers and educators. Crossler and Bélanger received the award for their research together, spanning almost a decade, which targeted the improvement of information privacy practices for individuals in an ever-changing technological environment.

Crossler and Bélanger’s research project was titled “Privacy that Matters: Designing IT Artifacts for Privacy Protection”. Crossler believes that the subject of protecting information privacy is something that deeply concerns many people.

“With the rapid computer technology advancements in today’s society, the ability to protect our personal privacy is becoming much more limited,” said Crossler. “We believe that through research, we can raise people’s awareness of the importance of protecting your privacy as well as develop programs to help guard against the unwanted sharing of private information.”

Their research sparked the idea to develop several computer add-ons and mobile device applications that would help improve individuals’ privacy practices. Crossler and Bélanger first created a computer browser add-on tool called POCKET (Parental Online Consent for Kids' Electronic Transactions). This automated browser tool provides parents with an easy and effective way to protect their children from disclosing private information to websites while unsupervised.

The team developed another browser add-on tool called the Privacy Enhancing Support System (PESS). This application integrates three privacy-enhancing features that allow users to search, control their personal information, and review user ratings on the privacy practices of each domain visited.

The development of privacy enhancing add-on tools for personal computers led Crossler and Bélanger to also create a smartphone application for iOS operating systems. The Privacy Helper © 2013 app is designed to educate smartphone users about why many apps ask to share their information or track their location. It also gives users the option of choosing a menu-based text or voice-over format to guide them through the various privacy settings on their mobile device and the process of changing these settings to control the amount of information shared. There are plans to address a compatible version of this app for the Android operating system in the future.

Their design of the Privacy Helper app paved the way for the creation of a program called mPETA (Mobile Privacy Education Training and Awareness), which allows the testing of Privacy Helper and different approaches to protect mobile privacy. Several organizations are already taking part in the mPETA testing, which has the potential of opening more doors for Crossler and Bélanger to further validate their research.

Dr. Crossler joined the College of Business at Mississippi State University in 2012, as assistant professor of Information Systems. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Idaho, and a Ph.D. in Accounting and Information Systems from Virginia Tech.

For more Information about the INFORMS ISS Design Science Award, please visit the website below.

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