Crowdsourcing Helps to Organize Inboxes Despite Confidentiality Concerns

By Ed Silverstein March 15, 2013

Computer users will let outsiders gain access to their inboxes in exchange for organizing the content and improving user productivity, according to a new study from Stanford University.

Called “EmailValet,” the solution matches remote assistants via oDesk, a crowdsourcing website, with users. Messages are read and a list of things to do is created. Also, EmailValet restricts the categories of e-mails remote assistants can read to ensure confidentiality.The idea for the project came from Nicolas Kokkalis, a computer-engineering graduate student at Stanford. It was based on his own experiences in the field.

"It was easy to hire people online, through oDesk and other platforms, but it was difficult to actually trust somebody to help me with that,” Kokkalis said in a university statement. “What if they change the password of my account? Or to my bank account?"

Others agreed with him on these concerns. "We're trying to break down a wall that has been up with crowdsourcing. It's uncomfortable sharing very private data," Stanford computer science Assistant Professor Michael Bernstein said in a statement carried by TechZone360.

Kokkalis, along with Stanford’s Human-Computer Interaction group, developed an application to ensure security. The product works; users were able to complete twice as many tasks. It’s also economical, and users achieved many benefits.

"They got value out of the system," Bernstein said. "It's a reminder that privacy and security are negotiated. If you give me enough benefit, I'm willing to share a little bit of information with you."

The study also provides a new way to understand crowdsourcing.

“Crowdsourcing initially started as a field where we mistakenly viewed it as underpaid mechanical tech workers that do things for two cents,” Kokkalis told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “I think that impression is wrong. We can definitely see a future where crowdsourcing is highly paid and a job with a high reputation.”

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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