Potty Talk CyLab's Lorrie Cranor Uses Bathrooms To Teach About Privacy

Daniel TkacikWednesday, June 23, 2021

Lorrie Cranor recently gave a presentation on privacy from the most private room in her house: the bathroom.

Lorrie Cranor decided to present at this month's Conference on Privacy Engineering Practice and Respect (PEPR) from an extremely private room in her home.

"Today, I'm talking to you from my third-floor bathroom," Cranor said at the start of her presentation. "I know this is an unusual place to record a presentation, but hey, this is an unusual presentation."

Cranor, the director of CyLab and a professor in the departments of Engineering and Public Policy and the Institute for Software Research, has used potty talk to teach about privacy since 2014, when she conducted a study in which she asked people of all ages to sketch drawings in response to the question, "What does privacy mean to you?" The study's authors analyzed the illustrations to identify privacy themes and define the conceptual metaphors used to convey privacy. Illustrations included a wide range of concepts, including locks, doors, windows, and of course, over two dozen drawings of what might be the most quintessential private space: the bathroom.

While children drew bathrooms as a refuge from siblings, adults drew themselves sitting on toilets enjoying a quiet break. You can read more about Cranor's bathroom talk and see examples of drawings from her 2014 study in this story on CyLab's website.

For More Information

Aaron Aupperlee | 412-268-9068 | aaupperlee@cmu.edu