Adoption of 'Privacy-Preserving' Analytics: Drivers, Designs, & Decoupling
45 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2024
Date Written: February 7, 2024
Techniques for privacy-preserving analytics (PPA) offer organizations a way to maintain and expand access to valuable data while preserving individuals’ privacy. Adoption of PPA is growing in industry and government, but the impacts are not yet clear: small differences in design can have significant downstream impacts on data privacy, and little research examines the decisions that determine whether adoption lives up to consumers’ and regulators’ expectations. We investigate the organizational processes driving adoption and deployment of PPA systems in a qualitative study based on interviews with the executives, lawyers, engineers, and scientists implementing PPA across 21 large technology firms, startups, non-profits, and government agencies. We develop a grounded theory of the drivers of adoption, the ways practitioners interpret those drivers into specific designs, and the ways organizations justify their design choices. We find that organizations a) prioritize managerial concerns over privacy in PPA design, b) decouple representations about privacy from the specifics of their implementation, and c) use PPA adoption to influence privacy expectations in turn. However, we also find that morally motivated practitioners leverage their expertise to spread adoption and maintain their own standards. We explore the consequences of these findings for the future of regulation and research.
Keywords: privacy-preserving technology, technology adoption, organizational decoupling, legal endogeneity, algorithmic systems
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