The Usability Lab aims to increase user safety and promote practical internet freedom by working with developers and technologists to improve the usability of open source circumvention and digital security tools.
There are many open source software projects that aim to help people around the world – activists, journalists, and everyday citizens – communicate in privacy and security. Unfortunately, few of these software development teams have the capacity or expertise in-house to make tools that are truly usable. These usability challenges hamper tool adoption, or may cause misunderstandings for users about tool functionalities, and subsequently may give users a false sense of security.
OTF’s Usability Lab, including service provider Simply Secure, will provide usable security audits as an in-kind resource to OTF-funded projects and other internet freedom technologies. These usable security audits expand the traditional definition of a “security audit” to include human factors. Whereas security audits seek to identify potential vulnerabilities in the design and implementation of the software code, a usable security audit will examine, for example:
- Interaction “pain points” – interactive elements that cause users frustration or confusion, or which prevent users from making effective use of the tool altogether.
- Emotional engagement – other elements of the software that leave users with a negative feeling. This may include purely visual aspects (i.e., the “look and feel”).
- Mismatched mental models – cases where the user’s understanding of the security guarantees provided by the tool do not match reality.
- Communication breakdowns – missed or mismanaged opportunities for users to receive information from the developers, or vice versa.
- Are you an Internet Freedom and Human Rights technology tool developer in need of an audit of your tool’s usability? If so, start by completing this form now.