You are here

Privacy practices of Internet users: Self-reports versus observed behavior

TitlePrivacy practices of Internet users: Self-reports versus observed behavior
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsJensen, C., C. Potts, and C. Jensen
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies
Pagination203 - 227
Date Published07/2005
Keywordsdecision-making, design, e-commerce, economic models, policy, privacy, survey

Several recent surveys conclude that people are concerned about privacy and consider it to be an important factor in their online decision making. This paper reports on a study in which (1) user concerns were analysed more deeply and (2) what users said was contrasted with what they did in an experimental e-commerce scenario. Eleven independent variables were shown to affect the online behavior of at least some groups of users. Most significant were trust marks present on web pages and the existence of a privacy policy, though users seldom consulted the policy when one existed. We also find that many users have inaccurate perceptions of their own knowledge about privacy technology and vulnerabilities, and that important user groups, like those similar to the Westin “privacy fundamentalists”, do not appear to form a cohesive group for privacy-related decision making.

In this study we adopt an experimental economic research paradigm, a method for examining user behavior which challenges the current emphasis on survey data. We discuss these issues and the implications of our results on user interpretation of trust marks and interaction design. Although broad policy implications are beyond the scope of this paper, we conclude by questioning the application of the ethical/legal doctrine of informed consent to online transactions in the light of the evidence that users frequently do not consult privacy policies.

Short TitleInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies