7/16/09

The Psychology of Online Privacy

After reading Acquisti and Grossklags’ brilliant paper, “What can Behavioral Economics Teach Us About Privacy?”, I started thinking about how we, as users, engage in protecting our own privacy. Basically, it all comes down to value: how much do I value my privacy? And frankly, my privacy may be more valuable than your privacy. I mean, honestly, if your credit is in the tank or you’ve declared bankruptcy, you may be begging for someone to steal your identity. So the value of privacy is relative. Furthermore, how much we value privacy at any given moment may change, based upon the situation. If that fellow on Match.com who says he’s from Nigeria is asking for my bank account number, I’m telling him “hell, no.” But if that handsome tennis player on Match.com, posing next to a Jag doesn’t ask for my phone number soon, I may send it to him anyways (not really, Mom; it’s just an example!) So value is subjective. We are also more likely to divulge information to sites that give the appearance of security. So if there is a Verisign badge on the site, along with a professional-looking design and a secured log indicated by a an “https”, we don’t mind turning over our social security number. So value is based upon appearances. And then there is what I will call the “Price is Right” effect: given a choice between Door Number 1, which has a free, all-expense paid trip to Maui, or the unknown prize behind Door Number 2, most of us will pick Door Number 1. So, in other words, I am more likely to give my data to a known entity than an unknown entity. So value is based upon experience. Lastly, in what I call the “Garage Sale” phenomenon, consider the price of protecting my privacy versus the value I place on my privacy when someone wants it. Call it the meeting of the minds amongst Ebenezer Scrooge, Jed Clampett and Donald Trump--that's scary. So value is based upon positioning. To wrap this all up, I have only one question: so just how are we going to standardize all of this?

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2 comments:

Toby Brown said...

Timing is everything!

Bruce Schneier comments on the same topic here: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/07/privacy_salienc.html

Mikethelawstudent said...

Whats interesting to me is how younger people (college age and younger) almost feel no need for internet privacy. My brother in law is pretty consistently surprized when his parents say something about what he has posted online. Anyway interesting post

Mike

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