Is There a Reverse Privacy Paradox? An Exploratory Analysis of Gaps Between Privacy Perspectives and Privacy-Seeking Behaviors

Authors: Jessica Colnago (Carnegie Mellon University), Lorrie Cranor (Carnegie Mellon University), Alessandro Acquisti (Carnegie Mellon University)

Volume: 2023
Issue: 1
Pages: 455–476

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Abstract: Privacy scholars have long studied, and argued about, a so-called privacy paradox---the alleged gap between individuals' claims of caring about privacy and their actual behaviors. This manuscript explores whether a different type of mismatch occurs in an online sample of US participants: a mismatch between participants' dismissive perspectives on privacy and their privacy-protective behaviors. In a series of online studies with Prolific US participants we tackle two research questions: is there evidence of mismatches between (dismissive) privacy perspectives, and (protective) privacy behaviors? If so, what can explain those mismatches? In a Behavior Elicitation study, we collect a corpus of privacy-regulating and privacy-protective behaviors. Next, in Study 1, we find evidence that engagement in a broad array of privacy behaviors is, in fact, very common in our sample. We also find that mismatches between dismissive privacy perspectives and protective behaviors emerge in a large proportion of participants. Finally, in Study 2, we uncover several common but distinct reasons for those mismatches, including construing seemingly protective behaviors as motivated by reasons other than privacy, and nuanced stances on when to express privacy concern. Collectively, the results indicate that individuals who are seemingly dismissive of privacy concerns engage in behaviors that can be construed as privacy-seeking. The findings highlight the nuances of individual privacy decision-making and suggest that public policy related to privacy should account for the evidence for widespread privacy-seeking behaviors.

Keywords: Privacy, Altman, Human Behavior, Privacy Paradox

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