EmailValet: Managing Email Overload through Private, Accountable Crowdsourcing

Nicolas Kokkalis, Thomas Köhn, Carl Pfeiffer, Dima Chornyi, Michael S. Bernstein, Scott R. Klemmer
CSCW: ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, 2013
This paper introduces privacy and accountability techniques for crowd-powered systems. We focus on email task management: tasks are an implicit part of every inbox, but the overwhelming volume of incoming email can bury important requests. We present EmailValet, an email client that recruits remote assistants from an expert crowdsourcing marketplace. By annotating each email with its implicit tasks, EmailValet's assistants create a task list that is automatically populated from emails in the user's inbox. The system is an example of a valet approach to crowdsourcing, which aims for parsimony and transparency in access control for the crowd. To maintain privacy, users specify rules that define a sliding-window subset of their inbox that they are willing to share with assistants. To support accountability, Email Valet displays the actions that the assistant has taken on each email. In a weeklong field study, participants completed twice as many of their email-based tasks when they had access to crowdsourced assistants, and they became increasingly comfortable sharing their inbox with assistants over time. See