We, nowadays, see the tendency of governmental authorities to raise concern about privacy and data protection. On the upcoming week Brussels will welcome 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Data Comissioners, this time on the topic “Debating Ethics: dignity and respect in data driven life”.
But before world’s biggest decision makers gather to talk about digital ethics, let us turn to the question that finds almost no highlight in today’s privacy-concerned society – do your users really care about their privacy? How deep is their knowledge in understanding the scope of privacy or their rights? And what is the role of the companies in shaping their understanding?
These are the questions that most of the companies would love to have one answer to, in order to shape their approach to customer’s privacy and be sure that they are compliant to data protection requirement. But if we take a deeper approach to this matter, it is not as easy as it seams.
It was recognised in early 2000s that there is something called “privacy paradox” coming from individual’s behaviour and approach to their own privacy. It was noticed that although individuals expressed their concerns about their informational privacy, they were still willing to give their personal data to online retailers as long as they got something in return. For example, the shoppers will be willing to trade their personal data for the bonuses that they receive at cashiers with the bonus card*. Or, people tend to act in a self-disclosing manner in social media knowing that their data is visible to everyone and it could potentially be misused. Some studies show that users tend to manage their concerns about their privacy and unwanted audience by adjusting the visibility of information rather than regulating levels of disclosure**. Researchers explain that this is how privacy paradox works – customer’s privacy intentions do not necessarily lead to privacy behaviours with multiple factors affecting customer’s individual decision process with respect to personal privacy. It was found that customer’s privacy concerns hardly impact self-disclosure online and, what is more, our general privacy concerns are different from those which we have in relation to e-commerce online.
Due to exactly those aspects that tend to impact user’s decision making, the user gets lost in the amount of information surrounding him and tends to underestimate privacy as an intangible, putting more focus on tangible goods.
The privacy paradox suggests that user privacy beliefs are changeable and e-retailers should, by good governance principle, do the business alongside with positively influencing the user with regard to privacy***. Research done in this area leads to the fact that users get a genuine satisfaction and the feeling of enjoyment when they see that the website is showing how the data is collected and used in a user-friendly manner. With this positive experience, user’s trust towards the website is rising and, thus, they are more willing to disclose their personal data to the website.
So, e-commerce has a considerable role in shaping individual’s concerns towards the data, as their privacy beliefs is less of something that is stable and have more of a dynamic nature. Being open and transparent to a customer means earning trust and interest, proven not only by legal requirements but also by academic findings.
* Spyros Kokolakis – Privacy attitudes and privacy behaviour: A review of current research on the privacy paradox phenomenon, citing Brown, 2001 and Sayre & Horne, 2000
** Ibid., citing Tefekci (2008)
*** Wakefield, R. (2013). The influence of user affect in online information disclosure. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 22(2), 157–174, p. 168