Information security and the observer effect

The initial empirical study of the observer effect (Hawthorne effect), which said that people change their behaviour to the better when observed, has seen equal measures of criticism and support over the years. Whilst a lot of the critiques were typically academic (i.e. no impact on the end effect, just argument on which factor influences it) there were also a number of empirical studies that failed to replicate the original study’s results. Two academic papers that I used in the past on the effect of being watched (quantum physics observer effect in real world psychology, if you will) have a lot of lessons for information security designers and architects, if only they will stop rolling out new boxes and start thinking about what it is they really need to do.