Trust: A Collision of Paradigms

12 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2001

See all articles by L. Jean Camp

L. Jean Camp

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Informatics and Computing

Cathleen McGrath

Loyola Marymount University

Helen Nissenbaum

New York University; Cornell Tech

Date Written: May 2000


The technological challenges of securing networks are great, as recently witnessed in widespread denial of service and virus attacks. The human reaction to these attacks may be either a loss of trust or a willingness to tolerate increasing risk having weathered one assault. Examining human and computer interaction with a focus on evaluations the human response to loss of trust is a key part of the search for more secure networks. The success of current efforts to design appropriate security mechanisms depends as much on an understanding of human extensions of trust to computers as it does on an understanding of underlying mathematics. However, the former has not been sufficiently examined.

In this work we survey the findings in social psychology and philosophy with respect to trust. We introduce three hypotheses that remain unanswered with respect to the manner in which humans react to computers. We discuss potential design revisions in light of findings from other disciplines. Then we conclude by noting that research which empowers users in order to be their own security manager may be based on a fundamentally flawed view of human-computer interaction. We close by encouraging designers of computer security systems to examine the humans, which these systems are intended to empower, and recommend that any security system be built on the basis of understanding of human trust provided by the social sciences.

Keywords: information technology

Suggested Citation

Camp, L. Jean and McGrath, Cathleen and Nissenbaum, Helen F. and Nissenbaum, Helen F., Trust: A Collision of Paradigms (May 2000). Available at SSRN: or

L. Jean Camp (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Informatics and Computing ( email )

901 E 10th St
Bloomington, IN 47401
United States

Cathleen McGrath

Loyola Marymount University ( email )

7900 Loyola Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90045-8350
United States

Helen F. Nissenbaum

Cornell Tech ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

New York University ( email )

New York, NY 10003
United States
212-998-5251 (Phone)

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