Technology Use and Normative Change in Online Privacy Attitudes and Behavior: Experimental Evidence from Vignette Studies

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Wojtek PRZEPIORKA, Utrecht University, Netherlands
Christine HORNE, Washington State University, USA
The recent privacy debate has been shaped by the so-called “privacy paradox”, i.e. the common finding that citizens’ stated privacy attitudes differ from their privacy behavior. Nissenbaum (2010) devises a theoretical framework that offers to resolve the paradox by accounting for context dependent informational norms. Her theoretical framework asserts that new socio-technical systems challenge common information transmission practices, which are directed by informational norms. The breaches of informational norms by new technology-based information systems and practices thus provide an explanation for citizens’ privacy behavior across different contexts. However, her framework takes informational norms for granted and focuses on injunctive norms, i.e. norms prescribing or proscribing behavior; it leaves unanswered the question how informational norms emerge and change.

Here we argue that individuals use descriptive norms (existing patterns of behavior) as a source of information about the social norms to which others adhere. These normative expectations, in turn, encourage decisions consistent with typical behaviors. In particular, we propose that (1) the popularity of a potentially privacy-violating technology has a positive effect on individuals’ normative privacy expectations (i.e. expectations that others approve of privacy-violating behaviors by the technology provider); (2) the frequency of privacy violations by technology providers in general has a positive effect on individuals’ behavioral privacy expectations (i.e. expectations that a specific technology provider will engage in privacy-violating behaviors); (3) popularity of the technology increases and violation frequency decreases trust in a technology provider; (4) normative expectations and trust increase and behavioral expectations decrease individuals’ willingness to use a technology.

We test our propositions in a series of vignette experiments in the context of smart meter apps for household energy control. Our results support our propositions and corroborate that descriptive norms and trust in technology providers are significant drivers of normative change in online privacy attitudes and behavior.