Carnegie Mellon University
April 25, 2024

Faculty Spotlight: Naama Ilany-Tzur

By Stacy Kish

Naama Ilany-Tzur, assistant teaching professor in the Information Systems Program, examines how people make decisions online, particularly in the context of privacy and security-related choices.

Tell me about your scholarly work.

I am interested in user behavior. My research focuses on how people make decisions in digital environments, my recent work is related to privacy and security behavior. For example, in one study I conducted two digital field experiments with foot-in-the-door manipulation to test for elicitation techniques for information disclosure. In this study results show how slight modifications in the design of the system make it possible to obtain more information from users. Another study looks into how people take risks online, with a focus on the device being used. I was curious if mobile users were taking more risks than PC users in a context that is mimicking a phishing attack, but I found the opposite to be true. PC users are taking more risks than mobile users, specifically when risk is low. This reveals an unexpected breach of security. We feel safer and less suspicious when we are surfing on a larger device. This is the point where we are making mistakes. Maybe there is something like a mobile state of mind, that is more distracted and thus tends to avoid making decisions and maybe is less free.

How is your scholarly work adding to the greater field?

Generally, in my work I am trying to add to the understanding of how digital platforms are changing the way we make decisions. So in the context of privacy for example I am interested the mechanisms that are influencing the privacy paradox (i.e., the mismatch between your perceptions of our privacy concerns and the way we actually behave). This mismatch does not seem rational, and I am interested in the ways that can explain this supposedly irrational behavior,. Those places are interesting to me, and I design experiments to provide better explanations for those behaviors in an information systems context.

How did you become interested in this topic?

My interest in Information Systems and the way they are changing society started when I was working as a journalist covering economics in the early 2000s. I was looking at the rise of internet, a new form of media, while I was working in old media. It was a bit of a journey, but I found myself going into my second degree in information systems. I wanted to be a part of the amazing information revolution I was witnessing as a journalist. A few years after this transition, I find being a researcher is similar to being a journalist. Both researchers and journalists are looking at reality and trying to make sense of it.

What are you most excited to accomplish as a faculty member at CMU?

The exciting thing about being at CMU is that it provides a place for people to meet and collaborate. One of the first papers I read in my information system studies was written by a faculty member at CMU. This work impacted my whole research, and now at CMU I can go talk to this professor. This was the dream. To come to a place where researchers are working together and there are opportunities to exchange ideas and work together in multi-disciplinary collaboration. This is super exciting.

What are your goals for the next generation of scholars?

The best thing I can wish for my students is for them to be the best human they can be. Be the best researcher. Aim for the good. I want them to take this motto through their lives and careers. I would want for my generation and the next to be focused on how their work advances and improves society. I always believed in these innovative approaches, and I am super excited to be even a small part of this dynamic.

The Faculty Spotlight series features new and junior faculty at the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. Stay tuned for our next installment to learn more about the dynamic and engaging research and scholarly work being conducted in the college.