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Why Privacy is All But Forgotten - An Empirical Study of Privacy and Sharing Attitude

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kovila Coopamootoo, Professor Thomas GrossORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Privacy and sharing are believed to share a dynamic and dialectical tension, where individuals have competing needs to be both open and closed in contact with others [8]. Online, technology can impact this dy- namic process [68]. Indeed, a number of researchers ob- served that users’ stated privacy attitude do not match their behavior [2, 3, 23, 30, 64, 81]. In these studies privacy attitude is compared with behavior via a num- ber of concepts related to privacy. While it is known in psychology that attitudes are multidimensional con- structs [10, 15, 76], the question arises whether the user ambivalence with regards to privacy is due to different or contradictory cognitive and affective components of privacy and sharing attitude. We conducted an empirical study to investigate the dif- ference between privacy attitude and sharing attitude. A US sample of N = 60 MTurk workers was assigned to two groups and asked to describe in a 250-word free- form response what [privacy/sharing] online means for them. Responses were coded in quantitative content analysis. The presence and frequency of codes were com- pared across conditions. Emotions and relationships to other parties were evaluated as predictors for a discrim- inative logistic regression classifying both attitudes. We found that privacy and sharing attitude differ signif- icantly across a number of the extracted codes. Partic- ipants in privacy attitude were significantly more likely to express fear and significantly less likely to express happiness. For sharing attitude the reverse is true. We found that a discriminant logistic regression on a tone analysis of the participants’ responses offers excellent discrimination between privacy and sharing attitude. We cross-validated this classifier with another sample of N′ = 54. The observed differences contribute an un- derstanding of user states in privacy (and sharing) sit- uations online and has implications for both privacy re- search and practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Coopamootoo KPL, Gross T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PoPETs)

Year: 2017

Volume: 2017

Issue: 4

Pages: 39-60

Print publication date: 02/06/2017

Online publication date: 02/06/2017

Acceptance date: 02/06/2017

Date deposited: 07/12/2017

Publisher: De Gruyter Open


DOI: 10.1515/popets-2017-0040


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