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Mechanical Turk is Not Anonymous

15 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2013  

Matthew Lease

University of Texas at Austin

Jessica Hullman

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Jeffrey P. Bigham

University of Rochester

Michael S. Bernstein

Stanford University

Juho Kim

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Walter Lasecki

University of Rochester

Saeideh Bakhshi

Georgia Institute of Technology

Tanushree Mitra

Georgia Institute of Technology

Robert C. Miller

MIT CSAIL

Date Written: March 6, 2013

Abstract

While Amazon's Mechanical Turk (AMT) online workforce has been characterized by many people as being anonymous, we expose an aspect of AMT's system design that can be exploited to reveal a surprising amount of information about many AMT Workers, which may include personally identifying information (PII). This risk of PII exposure may surprise many Workers and Requesters today, as well as impact current institutional review board (IRB) oversight of human subjects research involving AMT Workers as participants.

We assess the potential multi-faceted impact of such PII exposure for each stakeholder group: Workers, Requesters, and AMT itself. We discuss potential remedies each group may explore, as well as the responsibility of each group with regard to privacy protection. This discussion leads us to further situate issues of crowd worker privacy amidst broader ethical, economic, and regulatory issues, and we conclude by offering a set of recommendations to each stakeholder group.

Keywords: crowdsourcing, human computation, privacy, regulation

Suggested Citation

Lease, Matthew and Hullman, Jessica and Bigham, Jeffrey P. and Bernstein, Michael S. and Kim, Juho and Lasecki, Walter and Bakhshi, Saeideh and Mitra, Tanushree and Miller, Robert C., Mechanical Turk is Not Anonymous (March 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2228728 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2228728

Matthew Lease (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~ml

Jessica Hullman

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street

HOME PAGE: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jhullman/

Jeffrey P. Bigham

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.cs.rochester.edu/~jbigham/

Michael S. Bernstein

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Juho Kim

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory ( email )

32 Vassar Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.juhokim.com/

Walter Lasecki

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.cs.rochester.edu/~wlasecki/

Saeideh Bakhshi

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~sbakhshi/

Tanushree Mitra

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tanushree-mitra/1a/648/778

Robert C. Miller

MIT CSAIL ( email )

32 Vassar St
Cambridge, MA 02139

HOME PAGE: http://www.mit.edu/~rcm

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