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Publication Detail
Why Trust Seals Don’t Work: A Study of User Perceptions and Behavior
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Kirlappos I, Sasse MA, Harvey N
  • Publisher:
  • Publication date:
  • Place of publication:
  • Pagination:
    308, 324
  • Volume:
  • Series:
    Lecture Notes in Computer Science
  • Editors:
    Katzenbeisser S,Weippl E,Camp L,Volkamer M,Reiter M,Zhang X
  • ISBN-13:
  • Status:
  • Book title:
    Trust and Trustworthy Computing
  • Keywords:
    trust signaling, e-commerce, trust seals
  • Addresses:
    University College London
    Department of Computer Science
    Gower Street
    WC1E 6BT
    United Kingdom
Trust seals, such as the VeriSign and TRUSTe logos, are widely used to indicate a website is reputable. But how much protection do they offer to online shoppers? We conducted a study in which 60 experienced online shoppers rated 6 websites – with and without trust seals - based on how trustworthy they perceived them to be. Eye tracking data reveals that 38% of participants failed to notice any of the trust seals present. When seals were noticed, the ratings assigned to each website were significantly higher than for the same website without a seal, but qualitative analysis of the interview data revealed significant misconceptions of their meaning (e.g. “presence of seals automatically legitimizes any website”). Participants tended to rely on self-developed – but inaccurate – heuristics for assessing trustworthiness (e.g. perceived investment in website development, or references to other recognizable entities). We conclude that trust seals currently do not offer effective protection against scam websites; and suggest that other mechanisms – such as automatic verification of authenticity are required to support consumers’ trust decisions.
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