An Online Survey Experiment on Ambiguity and Privacy

Communications & Strategies, No. 88, 4th Quarter 2012, pp. 19-39

21 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014 Last revised: 24 Dec 2018

See all articles by Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Jens Grossklags

Pennsylvania State University

Date Written: December 15, 2012

Abstract

We provide three related approaches to better understand the connections between the literatures on the value of privacy, and economic decision-making. In particular, we consider economic scenarios where individuals lack important information about facets of a privacy choice and where the relevant outcomes of a choice are non-deterministic. We begin by highlighting the reasons why a lack of information by at least one party of a transaction is central to many privacy situations. We further comment on the foundations of the terms uncertainty, risk, and ambiguity and their relationship to privacy research. Next, to provide a practical example, we dissect the terms of a real-world sweepstakes solicitation to highlight the layers of complexity inherent in this specific offer, and other scenarios that involve collection and use of personal data. Finally, we provide evidence from an online survey experiment showing how an individual's valuation of a marketer's offer that is imprecise about material privacy terms of the bargain can be manipulated through simple reframing as a discount. In these scenarios, we study the valuation for thirteen different categories of sensitive personal information such as health information. We observe significant treatment differences between the original and the reframed offer that are mainly driven by the gender of the participants.

Keywords: privacy, ambiguity, valuation of personal information, survey experiment

JEL Classification: D8, M3

Suggested Citation

Acquisti, Alessandro and Grossklags, Jens, An Online Survey Experiment on Ambiguity and Privacy (December 15, 2012). Communications & Strategies, No. 88, 4th Quarter 2012, pp. 19-39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374342

Alessandro Acquisti (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-9853 (Phone)
412-268-5339 (Fax)

Jens Grossklags

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

College of Information Sciences and Technology
IST Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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