Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


"An Empirical Approach to Understanding Privacy Valuation"

Luc Wathieu and Allan Friedman have an article in Harvard Business School’s ‘working knowledge,’ titled “An Empirical Approach to Understanding Privacy Valuation.”

In it, they present the results of a survey of 647 people with regard to a number of privacy hypotheses. Their results include:

  • Contrary to some research, the chief privacy concern appears based on data use, not data itself.
  • There is consumer demand for social control that focuses on data use.
  • Sophisticated consumers care about economic context and indirect economic effects.

It’s a good short paper, and I’m glad to see research prising apart the ways people think about privacy.

I’d love to know if the authors attempted to extract any initial (qualitative) reactions to the scenario they presented. I’m also curious how long people took, and if their results would be different under time pressure. Both of these questions are related to my belief that transactional costs are dominant in many privacy scenarios, and that people choose defaults to avoid the costs of considering many questions about privacy: they’ll often say either yes or no without a lot of consideration.

Update: s/per/pir/g in title [cw][as]