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Increasing security sensitivity with social proof: A large-scale experimental confirmation

One of the largest outstanding problems in computer security is the need for higher awareness and use of available security tools. One promising but largely unexplored approach is to use social proof: by showing people that their friends use security features, they may be more inclined to explore those features, too. To explore the efficacy of this approach, we showed 50,000 people who use Facebook one of 8 security announcements—7 variations of social proof and 1 non-social control—to increase the exploration and adoption of three security features: Login Notifications, Login Approvals, and Trusted Contacts. Our results indicated that simply showing people the number of their friends that used security features was most effective, and drove 37% more viewers to explore the promoted security features compared to the non-social announcement (thus, raising awareness). In turn, as social announcements drove more people to explore security features, more people who saw social announcements adopted those features, too. However, among those who explored the promoted features, there was no difference in the adoption rate of those who viewed a social versus a non-social announcement. In a follow up survey, we confirmed that the social announcements raised viewer’s awareness of available security features.

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