The burden of authentication: What friction points reveal

Alessandro Acquisti

Dana Chisnell
Center for Civic Design

Monday, November 13, 2013
NSF Stafford I, Room 110


Everyone whines about dealing with passwords and authentication, but what’s the real cost to individual users? In a study conducted with 23 people at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, we asked participants to tell us about every time they authenticated in a 24-hour period. From this, we learned that the friction of authentication goes beyond the specific act of authenticating, spilling over into tasks, productivity, and attitudes about compliance as people encountered the “wall of disruption” created by the enabling task of authentication.


Dana's love of the usable and usability testing started when she participated in research on a mainframe office system developed by IBM. Since then Dana has worked with dozens of teams, gathering and analyzing user research data to inform product designs from software to websites to voting systems. She’s the co-director of the Center for Civic Design (, where she conducts applied research and is the managing editor of the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent. Dana recently concluded an NSF-funded study about the impact of poll worker behavior on election security. If you’re looking for guidance with user research, check out her book with Jeff Rubin, Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition.

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