Privacy Attitudes and Concerns in the Digital Lives of Older Adults: Westin’s Privacy Attitude Typology Revisited

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:48
Oral Presentation
Isioma ELUEZE, Western University, Nigeria
Anabel QUAN-HAASE, University of Western Ontario, Canada
There is a growing literature on younger users’ attitudes toward online privacy, yet little is known about older adults. As older adults join the digital world in growing numbers--going online to connect with friends and family, accessing services, and searching for information-- we need to understanding their privacy attitudes and concerns. This paper fills this research gap by examining 40 in-depth interviews with older adults (65+) living in East York, Toronto. Westin’s typology of privacy attitudes informs our qualitative data analysis. Specifically, we examine to what extent the typology is useful in understanding privacy attitudes of older adults. Our East York older adults varied considerably in terms of their comfort with digital media and approach to privacy threats. We propose a typology of older adults that distinguishes this demographic into five categories: fundamentalist, intense pragmatist, relaxed pragmatist, marginally concerned, and cynical expert. We found that each category had a set of unique concerns, but some concerns were shared across several categories, the most common being surveillance, scams, spam, and unauthorized access to personal information. Fundamentalists had few concerns as a group, whereas intense pragmatists had many concerns. The marginally concerned group was more annoyed about potentially privacy breaches than concerned. We draw theoretical implications based on the findings for our understanding of privacy in the context of older adults and discuss implications for offering training geared toward enhancing privacy literacy in this age group.