CREATe is happy to announce the publication of a new paper ‘The role of personal data value, culture and self-construal in online privacy behaviour’ by Piers Fleming and colleagues at the University of East Anglia, in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
The research aimed to understand differences in online privacy behaviour and the role of the perceived value of personal information. Our personal information varies in its value to us and to others – we might care more about our bank account details than details of our breakfast and some people might consider their political beliefs to be a private matter while others are more open. It should follow that we are more careful with information which we consider to be valuable, this is what we found but only for people who prioritise group membership (some people in the UK and a sample from India) and not for those who prioritise individuality (other people in the UK and a sample from the USA). These are exploratory findings but offer an encouraging approach to explain previously mixed research regarding privacy behaviour and to address real world issues.
People are often insufficiently cautious with personal data and give it a low value– for example, old social media posts regularly come to light and embarrass their authors, and increasingly cyber-crime is related to personal data leaks. There might be multiple reasons for this lack of caution but our research suggests that highlighting the importance of personal data is one approach and that it is most effective for people who value fitting in. We can also speculate that emphasising why fitting in is important would help.
The research ‘Value of personal data privacy: Experimental approach‘ was conducted as part of the New Funds Projects for CREATe 2012-2018. It combines literature from the fields of cross-cultural privacy and privacy value as well as reporting three experimental studies.
The role of personal data value, culture and self-construal in online privacy behaviour
Piers Fleming, Andrew P. Bayliss, S. Gareth Edwards & Charles R. Seger
Personal data is ubiquitous in the digital world, can be highly valuable in aggregate, and can lead to unintended intrusions for the data creator. However, individuals’ expressions of concern about exposure of their personal information are generally not matched by their behavioural caution. One reason for this mismatch could be the varied and intangible value of personal data. We present three studies investigating the potential association between personal data value and privacy behaviour, assessing both individual and cross-cultural differences in personal data valuation, comparing collectivist and individualistic cultures. Study 1a, using a representative UK sample, found no relationship between personal data value and privacy behaviour. However, Study 1b found Indian (collectivist) participants’ privacy behaviour was sensitive to personal data value, unlike US (individualist) participants. Study 2 showed that in a UK sample, privacy behaviour was sensitive to personal data value but only for individuals who think of themselves as more similar to others (i.e., self-construe as similar, rather than different). We suggest those who prioritise group memberships are more sensitive to unintentional disclosure harm and therefore behave in accordance with personal data valuations – which informs the privacy concern-behaviour relationship. Our findings can suggest approaches to encourage privacy behaviours.
The full paper can be downloaded here.