University of Maryland

Research Projects

Below are brief descriptions of the main projects the lab is working on.

Vitak and Zimmer have been exploring the privacy implications of IoT since their NSF EAGER was awarded in 2016. In 2021, they further expanded this work by running focus groups with smart home power users, and in 2023, they (along with PI Yaxing Yao & Co-PI Danny Huang) were awarded funding from NSF to further expand this work. Students involved in this project include Sunyup Park and Anna Lenhart.

Since 2016, Vitak, Chetty, Clegg, and Kumar have been working on a Google-funded project to develop resources to help teachers, parents, and elementary school-aged children better understand privacy and security concepts. In 2020, they were awarded a NSF SaTC EDU grant more the project. Project website:

Vitak and Zimmer were awarded a small grant by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in August 2020 to explore the impact of COVID-19 on workplace surveillance practices. In November 2020 they surveyed 650 American office workers about how their job has changed since working from home and their attitudes toward various surveillance practices. See the announcement here. In 2023, they published two articles based on this data.

In 2017, Shilton, Vitak, Zimmer, and four other PIs were awarded an NSF Large grant to study the ethical issues raised from the increasing availability and ease of access of large troves of digital data about people. This builds on prior survey studies by Shilton and Vitak on attitudes and behaviors large large-scale data collection by researchers and IRBs. Project website:

Bus on city street.

Vitak and PhD student Sunyup Park joined a project being led by iSchool faculty member Vanessa Frias-Martinez in 2020. The project is being funded by NSF’s Smart & Connected Communities (SCC) initiative, and will focus on developing privacy-protective tools for residents in Baltimore City, with a special focus on low-income residents who are heavily reliant on the city’s public transit options. Read the press release here. Project website:

Archived / Completed Projects

The following projects and grants have ended or are no longer actively being worked on.

Starting in August 2019, Vitak began a new project expanding on the mobile privacy & surveillance grant to look at the privacy risks of peer-to-peer financial apps like Venmo that include a social awareness stream. The project is collecting survey and interview data from young people about their use of the app and whether they believe Venmo generates any new risks to their personal data. [Note: this project was put on hold in 2021.]

Mega Subramaniam (UMD) and Vitak were awarded an IMLS grant in fall 2016 to develop resources for librarians and the economically disadvantaged families they serve. They have partnered with four libraries across the state of Maryland to develop and pilot these resources. In 2021, they completed the grand and launched Safe Data | Safe Families (, including resources for library staff (training, privacy policy framework) and families (games, handouts).

Michael Zimmer (UW-Milwaukee) and Vitak were awarded a NSF EAGER in 2016 for a collaborative project with the Netherlands on mobile privacy and surveillance. During the first stage of data collection, they focused on fitness apps (in the US) and mobile messaging (in the Netherlands). In the second stage, both teams looked at intelligent personal assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Project website:

In 2016-2017, Vitak partnered with two Baltimore high schools to collect pilot data for a study examining how privacy and disclosure norms evolve during late adolescence.  Read More


Recent News

June 2023: Vitak & Zimmer have a paper out in JCMC exploring attitudes toward workplace surveillance.

April  2023: Our qualitative study of power users’ approach to managing their smart home ecosystems was accepted to CSCW 2023 [pdf].

April 2023: Vitak and Zimmer (along with Yaxing Yao & Danny Huang) were awarded a $600k grant from NSF to study privacy mitigations in smart environments.

March 2023: “When research is the context: Cross-platform user expectations for social media data reuse” was published in Big Data & Society.

March 2023: “Power, stress, and uncertainty: Experiences with and attitudes toward workplace surveillance during a pandemic” was published in Surveillance & Society.

March 2023: Vitak & Shilton shared recent PERVADE work on “The Discussion Section” podcast.

Jan 2023: Vitak gave the keynote at a Privacy Day event at Maquette University (“Reimagining Data Collection and Use in the Age of Smart Devices”).

Jan 2023: “When Do Data Collection and Use Become a Matter of Concern? A Cross-Cultural Comparison of U.S. and Dutch Privacy Attitudes” was published in IJoC.

Dec 2022: Vitak gave the closing keynote at the MD Tech Connect conference (“School and Library Programming to Teach Children Basic Privacy and Security Concepts”).