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