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‘We are adults and deserve control of our phones’: Examining the risks and opportunities of a right to repair for mobile apps

Konrad Kollnig‚ Siddhartha Datta‚ Thomas Serban von Davier‚ Max Van Kleek‚ Reuben Binns‚ Ulrik Lyngs and Nigel Shadbolt


Many mobile apps are designed not just to support end-users’ needs, but also commercial aims. This can result in app designs that compromise end-user privacy, safety, and well-being. Since apps nowadays provide vital digital information and services, users often have no choice but to accept potentially harmful or manipulative app designs. What if, instead, individuals could customise their apps to make them safer and better suit their needs? This exploratory work examines this question through a multi-faceted approach; first, to understand user needs, we conducted a survey (n = 100) of changes users wanted in their apps, and of perceptions of risks in app repair. Second, to identify technical challenges, we developed a prototype that enables end-users to change their apps, and realised several modifications suggested by survey participants. Finally, we conduct a set of expert interviews (n = 8) to delve into the ethical and legal aspects of such a tool, and synthesise a framework of risks and opportunities of app repair.

FAccT '23: Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Conference on Fairness‚ Accountability‚ and Transparency