The threat of privacy through online technologies results in several disadvantages such as identity theft, restrained personal freedom as well as psychological constraints. These disadvantages make it necessary to research on this group of themes. In particular, the goal of this research topic is to understand how individuals manage their privacy in the domain of information systems. It is particularly about understanding why individuals disclose personal information, why they protect them and what leads to certain perceptions in the context of privacy.
Topic of research
The research on reactions of individuals in the domain of privacy is categorized into three main sections:
Disclosure of information
Only through the disclosure of information, privacy can potentially be harmed. Thereby, it is irrelevant if the information is disclosed intendedly or unintendedly. Two questions are central to the research team:
- What leads to the disclosure of personal information in the domain of information systems?
- In how far is the effect of factors that leads to disclosure of personal information strengthened or weakened through other factors?
Regarding the first question one study has been conducted to find out in how far individuals disclose information only because they think that other expect them to do so. In another study the second question was answered, by firstly confirming previous research: individuals disclose information when benefits outweigh the risks of disclosure. However, our research has also shown that the positive effects are strengthened, and the negative effects are weakened, depending on if individuals have resigned in protecting their privacy or not.
Protection of information
Protecting information is mainly done by either two manners: Either, one is not disclosing information, or one is disclosing false information. Based on already existing research two further central questions have been identified by the research team:
- What leads to the protection of information of others?
- How and why do individuals protect their privacy, when personal information is disclosed without their knowledge?
Regarding the first question the research team conducted a study to extend the definition of information sensitivity: Individuals do not only rate the sensitivity of information by evaluating the consequences for themselves if the information becomes public but also by evaluating the consequences for others. Based on this, the extended concept of information sensitivity was used to better understand, why individuals protect the privacy of others.
To answer the second research question, the protection motivation theory is used. The goal is to understand in how far it helps to frighten individuals to protect their privacy if their personal information is disclosed without their knowledge.
Perceptions in the context of privacy
One central perception is the level of worry individuals have regarding their privacy (i.e. their level of privacy concerns). Here, especially one question is central to the research team:
- In how far are individuals worried differently, depending on who is it that has potentially access to their personal information?
Regarding this question, one study has been conducted in how far individuals are differently worried, depending on if more known or more unknown persons gain access to their personal information.
Many organizations subsist from the personal information of their customers. Examples are social networks such as Facebook, search engines such as Google or e-mail providers such as outlook.com. For those organizations, it is important to understand what leads individuals to disclose or to protect their personal information. At the same time, the government tries to protect the privacy of their citizens through laws, e.g. the GDPR. Understanding, why individuals would protect their information or disclose their information is therefore also from the governments‘ perspective of central importance to act accordingly.
- Wirth, J., Maier, C., Laumer, S., and Weitzel, T. (2019): Perceived information sensitivity and interdependent privacy protection: a quantitative study; Electronic Markets (em), https://doi.org/10.1007/s12525-019-00335-0
- Wirth, J., Maier, C., and Laumer, S. (2019): Subjective Norm and the Privacy Calculus: Explaining Self-Disclosure on Social Networking Sites Proceedings of the 27th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS), Stockholm-Uppsala, Sweden
- Wirth, J., Maier, C., Laumer, S., and Weitzel, T. (2017): Understanding Privacy Threat Appraisal and Coping Appraisal through Mindfulness Proceedings of the 38th International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), Seoul, South Korea (Research in Progress)