Education & Academic Positions

  • Post Doctoral Fellow 2020-Present

    Institute for Software Research, School of Computer Science

    Carnegie Mellon University

  • Ph.D. 2015-2020

    Ph.D. in Information Science and Technology

    Syracuse University

  • M.S.2014

    Master of Science in Information Management

    University of Washington

  • B.B.A.2012

    Bachelor of Business Administration

    Harbin Institute of Technology


  • Present 2015.09

    Graduate Assistant

    Syracuse University, School of Information Studies

  • 2014.11 2015.05

    Research Assistant

    University of Washington, DataLab

  • 2014.09 2015.05

    Research Assistant

    University of Washington, Social Media Lab

  • 2015.05 2014.06

    Web Developer

    Taggle Inc., Seattle, WA

  • 2014.06 2013.04

    Web Operation Assistance

    University of Washington Medical Center, Strategy Marketing & Communication

Honors & Awards

  • 2018
    The Graduate Student Office Travel Award, $300
    Syracuse University
  • 2018
    The University of Houston Privacy and Security Workshop, $1,400
    The University of Houston, National Science Foundation
  • 2018
    Syracuse iSchool Research Fellowship, $12,000
    Syracuse University
  • 2018
    National Science Foundation I-Corp, $50,000
    Project "Beacon-Enabled Smart Location-Based Service”
  • 2018
    Syracuse iSchool Research Fund, $6000
    Syracuse University
  • 2017
    National Science Foundation Travel Grant, $175
    National Science Foundation
  • 2016
    PETS Student Travel Support
    Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS), Darmstat, Germany
  • 2016
    Katzer Research Fund, $6,000
    Syracuse University
  • 2016
    Completion of 1st Interdisciplinary Summerschool on Privacy (ISP 2016)
    Nijmegen, the Netherlands
  • 2013
    Graduate School Fund for Excellence and Innovation, $400
    Graduate School, University of Washington
  • 2013
    Mary Hotchkiss Endowed Fellowship, $1,400
    Information School, University of Washington
  • 2012
    People's Scholarship
    5%, Harbin Institute of Technology
  • 2012
    Excellent Student Leader
    5%, Harbin Institute of Technology

Research Summary



  • Privacy in Internet of Things
  • Privacy in Big Data
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Social Media

Laboratory Personel

David A. Doe

Postdoctoral fellow

+ Follow

James Doe

Postdoctoral fellow

+ Follow

Nadja Sriram

Postdoctoral fellow

+ Follow

Davide Doe

Research Assistant

+ Follow

Pauline Doe

Summer Intern

+ Follow

James Doe

Postdoctoral fellow

+ Follow

Great lab Personel!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor.

Filter by type:

Sort by year:

Privacy Perceptions and Designs of Bystanders in Smart Homes.

Yaxing Yao, Justin Reed Basdeo, Oriana Rosata McDonough, Yang Wang
Journal paper the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 3 (CSCW)


As the Internet of Things (IoT) devices make their ways into people’s homes, traditional dwellings are turning into smart homes. While prior empirical studies have examined people’s privacy concerns of smart homes and their desired ways of mitigating these concerns, the focus was primarily on the end users or device owners. Our research investigated the privacy perceptions and design ideas of smart home bystanders, i.e., people who are not the owners nor the primary users of smart home devices but can potentially be involved in the device usage, such as other family members or guests. We conducted focus groups and co-design activities with eighteen participants. We identified three impacting factors of bystanders’ privacy perceptions (e.g., perceived norms) and a number of design factors to mitigate their privacy concerns (e.g., asking for device control). We highlighted bystanders’ needs for privacy and controls, as well as the tension of privacy expectations between the owners/users and the bystanders in smart homes. We discussed how future designs can better support and balance the privacy needs of different stakeholders in smart homes.

“What if?” Predicting Individual Users’ Smart Home Privacy Preferences and Their Changes.

Nata Barbosa, Joon S. Park, Yaxing Yao, Yang Wang
Journal paper the Privacy Enhancing TEchnologies Symposium (PoPETS), 2019


Smart home devices challenge a long-held notion that the home is a private and protected place. With this in mind, many developers market their products with a focus on privacy in order to gain user trust, yet privacy tensions arise with the growing adoption of these devices and the risk of inappropriate data practices in the smart home (e.g., secondary use of collected data). Therefore, it is important for developers to consider individual user preferences and how they would change under varying circumstances, in order to identify actionable steps towards developing user trust and exercising privacy-preserving data practices. To help achieve this, we present the design and evaluation of machine learning models that predict (1) personalized allow/deny decisions for different information flows involving various attributes, purposes, and devices (AUC.868), (2) what circumstances may change original decisions (AUC .899), and (3) how much (US dollars) one may be willing to pay or receive in exchange for smart home privacy (RMSE 12.459). We show how developers can use our models to derive actionable steps toward privacy-preserving data practices in the smart home

Defending My Castle: A Co-Design Study of Privacy Mechanisms for Smart Homes.

Yaxing Yao, Justin Reed Basdeo, Smirity Kaushik, Yang Wang
Conference paper the ACM Conferences on Human Factors in Computer Systems (CHI 2019)


Home is a person's castle, a private and protected space. Internet-connected devices such as locks, cameras, and speakers might make a home "smarter" but also raise privacy issues because these devices may constantly and inconspicuously collect, infer or even share information about people in the home. To explore user-centered privacy designs for smart homes, we conducted a co-design study in which we worked closely with diverse groups of participants in creating new designs. This study helps fill the gap in the literature between studying users' privacy concerns and designing privacy tools only by experts. Our participants' privacy designs often relied on simple strategies, such as data localization, disconnection from the Internet, and a private mode. From these designs, we identified six key design factors: data transparency and control, security, safety, usability and user experience, system intelligence, and system modality. We discuss how these factors can guide design for smart home privacy.

Unpacking People’s Understandings of Bluetooth Beacon Systems – A Location-Based IoT Technology.

Yaxing Yao, Yun Huang, Yang Wang
Conference paper The 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS 2019), Maui, Hawaii, January 2019


Bluetooth beacon technology is an emerging location-based Internet of Things (IoT) technology, designed to transform proximity-based services in various domains such as retail. Beacons are part of the IoT infrastructure, but people rarely interact with them directly and yet they could still pose privacy risks to users. However, little is known about people's understandings of how beacon-based systems work. This is an important question since it can influence people's perceptions, adoption, and usage of this emerging technology. Drawing from 22 semi-structured interviews, we studied people's understandings of how beacon-based systems work and identified several factors that shaped their understandings or misunderstandings, such as how information flows among the components of beacon systems and who owns the beacons. These understandings and misunderstandings can potentially pose significant privacy risks to beacon users.

Personalized Privacy Assistant to Protect People's Privacy in Smart Home Environment

Yaxing Yao
Workshop paper Networked Privacy Workshop of the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2018), Montreal, Canada.


The goal of this position paper is to introduce one potential idea for my dissertation research. As smart home IoT devices are becoming pervasive, their ability to collect sensitive data of end users risk users’ privacy. Through a threestep project, I aim to develop a personalized privacy assistant which can provide users more transparency of the data collection practices in a smart home environment and help people make more informed privacy decisions. I further introduced a case study using a similar methodology in the context of online behavioral advertising.

Free to Fly in Public Spaces: Drone Controllers’ Privacy Perceptions and Practices.

Yaxing Yao, Huichuan Xia, Yun Huang, Yang Wang
Conference paper Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017), Denver, US.


Prior research has discovered various privacy concerns that bystanders have about drones. However, little is known about drone controllers’ privacy perceptions and practices of drones. Understanding controllers’ perspective is important because it will inform whether controllers’ current practices protect or infringe on bystanders’ privacy and what mechanisms could be designed to better address the potential privacy issues of drones. In this paper, we report results from interviews of 12 drone controllers in the US. Our interviewees treated safety as their top priority but considered privacy issues of drones exag- gerated. Our results also highlight many significant differences in how controllers and bystanders think about drone privacy, for instance, how they determine public vs. private spaces and whether notice and consent of bystanders are needed.

Privacy Mechanisms for Drones: Perceptions of Drone Controllers and Bystanders.

Yaxing Yao, Huichuan Xia, Yun Huang, Yang Wang
Conference paper Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017), Denver, US.


Drones pose privacy concerns such as surveillance and stalk- ing. Many technology-based or policy-based mechanisms have been proposed to mitigate these concerns. However, it is unclear how drone controllers and bystanders perceive these mechanisms and whether people intend to adopt them. In this paper, we report results from two rounds of online survey with 169 drone controllers and 717 bystanders in the U.S. We iden- tified respondents’ perceived pros and cons of eight privacy mechanisms. We found that owner registration and automatic face blurring individually received most support from both controllers and bystanders. Our respondents also suggested us- ing varied combinations of mechanisms under different drone usage scenarios, highlighting their context-dependent pref- erences. We outline a set of important questions for future privacy designs and public policies of drones.

Folk Models of Online Behavioral Advertising.

Yao, Y , Lo Re, D, Wang, Y.
Conference paper Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2017), Portland, US.


Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) is pervasive on the In-ternet. While there is a line of empirical research that studiesInternet users’ attitudes and privacy preferences of OBA, lit-tle is known about their actual understandings of how OBAworks. This is an important question to answer because peo-ple often draw on their understanding to make decisions.Through a qualitative study conducted in an iterative man-ner, we identify four “folk models” held by our participantsabout how OBA works and show how these models are eitherincomplete or inaccurate in representing common OBA prac-tices. We also discuss how privacy tools can be designed toconsider these folk models. In addition, most of our partici-pants felt that the information being tracked was more impor-tant than the web trackers themselves. This suggests the po-tential for an information-based blocking scheme rather thana tracker-based blocking scheme used by most existing ad-blocking tools.

Whose Privacy? The Case of Drone Controllers and Bystanders

Yang Wang, Yaxing Yao
Workshop paper Newworked Privacy Workshop of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2017), Portland, US.


Much of the networked privacy scholarship has focused on individual users’ privacy, which is often the main or only goal. Drawing from our research on privacy issues of drones, this paper aims to highlight the complexity of achieving privacy in a messy social environment where multiple stakeholders exist and may have competing interests. Which group’s interests take precedence often reflects power imbalances and raises important ethical questions. In our case study, we highlight that both drone controllers and bystanders have privacy concerns in the context of drone operations, and privacy-enhancing mechanisms that benefit one group may hurt the other group. We discuss the importance of and potential directions in making sensible and ethical privacy trade-offs that affect different stakeholders.

Danmaku: Understanding its Usage in China and its Broader Potential.

Yun Huang, Yaxing Yao, Jennifer Bort, Qunfang Wu
Workshop paper CSCW in China and Beyond Workshop of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2017), Portland, US.


Danmaku, or bullet screen, refers to a video comment function that allows users to comment on a video at specific points in the video timeline. The comments are then synced with the video timeline so that they display directly on the video at the intended point as overlaid comments. Danmaku has gained popularity in Japan and China since it first emerged in 2006. However, it has not yet been widely adopted in Europe or the United States. This research examines the ways in which users interact with and are motivated by the functionality. We suggest potential benefits and challenges of adopting such a system.

Flying Eyes and Hidden Controllers: A Qualitative Study of People's Privacy Perceptions of Civilian Drones in the US. 

Wang, Y., Xia, H., Yao, Y., Huang, Y.
Journal Paper Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PoPETS). 2016 (3):1–19, Darmstat, Germany.


Drones are unmanned aircraft controlled remotely or operated autonomously. While the extant literature suggests that drones can in principle invade people’s privacy, little is known about how people actually think about drones. Drawing from a series of in-depth interviews conducted in the United States, we provide a novel and rich account of people’s privacy perceptions of drones for civilian uses both in general and under specific usage scenarios. Our informants raised both physical and information privacy issues against government, organization and individual use of drones. Informants’ reasoning about the acceptance of drone use was in part based on whether the drone is operating in a public or private space.

However, our informants differed significantly in their definitions of public and private spaces. While our informants’ privacy concerns such as surveillance, data collection and sharing have been raised for other tracking technologies such as camera phones and closed-circuit television (CCTV), our interviews highlight two heightened issues of drones: (1) powerful yet inconspicuous data collection, (2) hidden and inaccessible drone controllers. These two aspects of drones render some of people’s existing privacy practices futile (e.g., notice recording and ask controllers to stop or delete the recording). Some informants demanded notifications of drones near them and expected drone controllers asking for their explicit permissions before recording. We discuss implications for future privacy-enhancing drone designs.

Municipal Police Departments on Facebook: What Are They Posting and Are People Engaging?

Huang, Y., Huo, S., Yao, Y., Niu, C., Wang, Y., Grygiel, J., Sawyer, S.
Conference paper In Proceedings of the 17th International Digital Government Research Conference (dg.o 2016), Shanghai, China.


Municipal police departments are leveraging social media platforms to support their missions. In this paper, we understand what they post on Facebook daily, and people's engagement with these government agencies on the social media platform. First, we collected and manually annotated 6,825 posts sent by four agencies (i.e., NYPD, LAPD, Baltimore PD and Cleveland PD) in 2014. We developed a two-tier code scheme to identify the purpose of a post and its topic. We then analyzed user engagement (e.g., likes, shares, and comments) with different post types (i.e., photo, video, status, and link) and topics (e.g., crime, traffic etc.). We identified interesting patterns of user engagement, and further validated the major findings by classifying and examining 33,103 posts sent by 52 large municipal police departments in 2015. Our results provide practical insights for police administrators and community members who are working on community policing frameworks. A sociotechnical platform for women immigrant workers in the home care industry.

Guajardo, V., Yao, Y., Bayo Urban, I. and Gomez, R.
Conference paper 11th Community Informatics Conference CIRN, Prato, Italy


This paper discusses the design experience and results of a community informatics project that explored the opportunities to match women immigrant day laborers affiliated with a local non-profit organization to secure jobs as home care workers. Latino immigrant day laborers in the United States are particularly vulnerable given the fluid nature of day labor, socio-economic challenges of workers, general low education attainment, and limited English proficiency. The home care service industry is a booming field, given the aging population in the United States and the limited family support networks. The opportunity to develop skills, increase job opportunities, and secure fair working wages lead to the creation of the home care training course, and subsequent graduating cohorts of women needing assistance with job placement. A review of existing online platform revealed they did not meet the specific needs of this population. Additionally, technological solutions had to consider the resources including limited IT support, a small staff with high work volumes, and a philosophical viewpoint that workers can have greater self-sufficiency and self-advocacy once trained. Through the iterative design process, interviews and meetings with vested groups, a sociotechnical platform was designed to match trained workers to potential employers in the greater Seattle area. Despite all this, the final prototype was not deployed: competing priorities, technical difficulties, and uncertainty about its actual utility for its intended beneficiaries remain huge obstacles. The process revealed unique challenges and opportunities that were instructive and unforeseen, while also offeringlessons that may be more broadly applicable to community informatics initiatives in other contexts.

Top soccer teams in cyberspace: Online channels for services, communications, research, and sales.

Jurisch, M., Krcmar, H., Scholl, H. J., Wang, K., Wang, Y., Woods, G., Xu., D. & Yao, Y.
Journal Paper Journal of Marketing Analytics, 2(2), 98-119.


For more than a decade, professional sports teams have mainly used their own websites as online vehicles in support of marketing efforts in services, communications, research and sales. Meanwhile, social media and mobile computing have been added to the mix of online as a response to raised service expectations and changing functional requirements for digital online presence and interaction, which has important implications for the marketing success of any professional team. We studied the cyberspace presence and appearance of four leading soccer teams in Europe and particularly looked at the mix of official team websites, social media and mobile applications. Following the methodology of previous studies on the subject, we used the TEDS framework for information artifact evaluation from a ‘human agent-centric’ perspective and extended this analytical approach to also include social media and mobile channels. Our results suggest that the new channels of social and mobile media have seemingly gained in importance putting the traditional websites to the backseat in the mix. However, in all four cases the integration of cyberspace channels appears to be in its infancy leaving much room for improvement from both a marketing perspective and an information artifact standpoint.

Digital and Social Media in Pro Sports: Analysis of the 2013 UEFA Top Four.

Jurisch, M., Krcmar, H., Scholl, H. J., Wang, K., Wang, Y., Woods, G., Xu., D. & Yao, Y.
Conference Paper 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, Hawaii, January 2014


Just like other businesses, so do professional sports teams use multi-functional websites and other online vehicles to connect to their audiences providing news, match day information, player statistics, and shopping opportunities among others. However, with the rapidly grown popularity of social media and mobile computing, the service expectations and functional requirements for digital online presence and interaction have also changed.

We studied the characteristics of the 2013 UEFA top four football teams’ online appearance, that is, the mix of official team websites and their social media and mobile applications. By building on past studies that had explored professional team websites by using the TEDS framework for information artifact evaluation, this investigation replicated the same ‘human agent-centric’ approach, but also included in the study the teams’ social media and mobile channels. The results suggest that the official websites of the 2013 top-four UEFA teams have slightly improved over time. However, the official team websites have lost importance relative to social media and mobile channels.

  • image

    Privacy Impact Assessment of Wearable Devices

    Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) is a widely adopted tool which can be used to evaluate the privacy risks of a given system. The current PIA methodology provides a high level overview without hands on operational guidance. Through the case study, I hope to propose a set of hands on guidance on utilizing PIA for real world applications.

    • Hands on assessment of several wearable devices to identify potential privacy risks
    • Provide detailed operational guidance
  • image

    Privacy-Enhancing Drones

    Understand people’s perceptions on an emerging technology, drones, especially in the context of security and privacy.

    • Understand people’s privacy and security concerns of drones through empirical research
    • Provide concrete design suggestions of drones
    • Design and prototype privacy-enhancing mechanism for drones
  • image

    Research on Users’ Habits of Sina Weibo (China Social Media)

    Weibo is a platform like Twitter. The number of daily active users of this platform is around 50 million and the number of Weibos posted per day surpasses 120 million. In this project we conduct a sentimental analysis on the platform to study users’habits, such as their emotional change at different time of the day or during big event happening in the country.

    • Reviewed literatures of similar researches and drafted research plan.
    • Extracted 15 million posts from Weibo API using Python and conducted sentiment analysis based on geo location, time or whether there are major events happening.
  • image

    CasaCare: A Sociotechnical Platform for Latina Home Caregivers

    n this project, we helped Casa Latina, an organization dedicating to improve employment situation of immigrant families, construct a web-based platform to assist Hispanic immigrant laborers in seeking jobs in the home care industry.

    • Interviewed the Casa Latina staff, potential employers and home care workers to conduct needs assessment.
    • ECompared 7 existed platforms to investigate their advantages and disadvantages.
    • Developed a bilingual (Spanish and English) platform CasaCare, conducted testing, and improved the platform to be convenient for users with low computer literacy.
  • image

    Digital and Social Media in Pro Sports: Analysis of the 2013 UEFA Top Four

    In this project, we used TEDS, an information artifact evaluation framework, to evaluate the official websites of four top football teams and investigated how social media and mobile devices influenced the communication between football teams and their audience

    • Rated target football team websites based on specific scenarios.
    • Covered materials introducing data representation and visualized data.
    • Analyzed data, drafted suggestions for website improvement and composed research paper.
    • Presented the research result in HICSS-47.

Feel free to reach out!

I would be more than happy to talk to you if you are interested in my research, or any fun aspects of my life.

  •    Phone: (206)-747-8867
  •    Email: yaxingyao AT cmu DOT edu
  •    yaxing DOT yao1