Digital privacy and new media: an empirical study assessing the impact of privacy seals on personal information disclosure.

Authors: O'Kane, C.

Conference: Bournemouth University, Faculty of Management


Advances in technology have facilitated the rapid growth of a global new media industry. Many new media firms rely heavily on networked technologies to enable a primary income driver based on advertising revenues. This has attracted criticisms from privacy campaigners who argue that elements of the way some of these firms operate constitute an invasion of user’s privacy.

Early economic approaches to privacy are primarily informed by the rational choice theory and viewed individuals as utility maximizers when making decisions involving personal information disclosure. Theoretical approaches have since developed to account for factors explored by bounded rationality and behavioural economics where individuals engage in complex trade-offs when making privacy disclosure decisions.

Both EU and US regulators believe rapid technological advances have rendered existing regulatory provisions inadequate. In the EU, the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set out to improve ‘information transparency’ and give individuals to exercise greater ‘control’ over their personal data. The regulation set out provisions for the establishment of a privacy seal accreditation scheme.

There is little empirical evidence to demonstrate that the use of privacy seals is privacy enhancing. Existing research reveals inconsistent and at times counter-intuitive findings. This research conducted online experimental research to establish if a causal link exists between the presence of a privacy seals and personal information disclose. Experiment results show that contrary to previous research in this area, the presence of privacy seals does not result in lower personal information disclosure. Survey findings also show that the GDPR has failed to expand ‘sensitive’ categories of data in line with both EU and US data subjects expectations.

This research makes a number of original contributions to knowledge. Information disclosure is examined in relation to sensitive data categories as defined in the GDPR. Using commercially available privacy seals, it adds to the existing body of literature on the impact of iconography on user behaviour. The findings suggest there is an opportunity for new media firms to use independently accredited privacy seals as a differentiator in this industry sector.

Source: Manual

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