cu Reed Snider

A Look At Artificial Intelligence

Reseraching how far personalization can go before it is too personal and how people look for and receive help in today's digital world.
May 2016

I worked with a leading artificial intelligence company that creates intelligent experiences for customers and employees to discover more about how this growing technology fits into our lives.

The primary goal in this study was to find out how far personalization can go before it is too personal. The aim in this is to understand the context and beliefs of people around what amount of information is excessive or intrusive for anyone or thing to know about them and why those people hold such beliefs. The secondary goal is to explore how people look for and receive help and what methods they use to solve their problems.



From this research emerged three themes.

  1. Help and privacy are not correlated. This means that if something is too intrusive to one’s privacy it will be avoided even if it is considered extremely helpful.

  2. Unsolicited help is a sensitive matter. You must find out who the audience is and properly evaluate when and how the help is being given. When people receive help that they did not ask for it can be very alarming. Not knowing where that information was gathered from that was used to help in that situation is another layer of worry that can cause people to feel uncomfortable. People want to be in control of their personal data and when they cannot determine how their information is being used they begin to panic with the uncertainty of their personal privacy, often suspecting the worst-case scenario.

  3. Informed consent can build trust. When people realize where the data is coming from, such as an ad that uses previous search history, they begin to understand the way in which their data is being used and that provides a more familiar scenario that people are more comfortable with. People do not trust companies that skirt away from the truth and this applies directly to data mining and the use of personal data.

    The Bottom Line

    In this realm of artificial intelligence there are a wealth of opportunities to make the experience of receiving assistance pleasant and efficient. Efficiency is a large part of the experience and providing immediate delivery of service is essential. If the phone is going to be faster, inform individuals to call instead of using online services. People want to control when and how they receive help to make it work for their own agenda and this control extends to customizing their personal privacy settings.

    Allowing people to customize the level of help and explaining the associated privacy implications with each level is a way to build trust and provide desired services. Let people control what they are sharing and inform them of how their data is being used, as transparency is greatly valued in all aspects of the experiences with artificial intelligence. There is also a point about pushing unsolicited help to people in that the timing of that help does not necessarily need to be relevant and at times it should in fact be randomized.


Card Sorting Activity


In this exercise please order these scenario cards from what you consider to be the most intrusive and least intrusive to your privacy. Next, I will ask you to order these in terms of being the most helpful to least helpful.


Questions Shown On Cards:

  • You receive a notification about a local restaurant that just opened near you.
  • You receive an email from your bank to recommend their services; it comes with a picture of you and a friend in it.
  • While shopping at the grocery store your phone sends you a list of relevant coupons.
  • You call an airline to change your flight and they answer the phone saying, “Hello, [your name]”
  • You walk into a bar and a bartender you’ve never met already knows your favorite drink and where you like to sit.
  • Facebook sends you a pre-made post with you and a friend encouraging you to post it to your profile
  • You receive an ad for hiking socks after searching for local hiking trails

Probing Questions:

  • Can you tell me about how you ordered these cards?
  • Let’s move down the list, can you tell me about the next scenario and why you placed it there?
  • I saw you place “x” at the end/start of the list, why is that?
  • When do you consider something to be intrusive?
  • Do you see a point between any of these cards that you consider a point of acceptable versus unacceptable?
  • Why?
    • Highlights
      • Deep diving into qualitative research
      • Facilitating one-on-one moderated studies
      • Digesting and consolidating research into a consumable report
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