The Privacy Pragmatic as Privacy Vulnerable
Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2014) Workshop on Privacy Personas and Segmentation (PPS), July 9-11, 2014, Menlo Park, CA
5 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2014
Date Written: July 9, 2014
Alan Westin’s well-known and often-used privacy segmentation fails to describe privacy markets or consumer choices accurately. The segmentation divides survey respondents into “privacy fundamentalists,” “privacy pragmatists,” and the “privacy unconcerned.” It describes the average consumer as a “privacy pragmatist” who influences market offerings by weighing the costs and benefits of services and making choices consistent with his or her privacy preferences. Yet, Westin’s segmentation methods cannot establish that users are pragmatic in theory or in practice. Textual analysis reveals that the segmentation fails theoretically. Original survey data suggests that, in practice, most consumers are not aware of privacy rules and practices, and make decisions in the marketplace with a flawed, yet optimistic, perception of protections. Instead of acting as “privacy pragmatists,” consumers experience a marketplace myopia that causes them to believe that they need not engage in privacy analysis of products and services.
Westin’s work has been used to justify a regulatory system where the burden of taking action to protect privacy rests on the very individuals who think it is already protected strongly by law. Our findings begin to suggest reasons behind both the growth of some information-intensive marketplace activities and some prominent examples of consumer backlash.
Based on knowledge-testing and attitudinal survey work, we suggest that Westin’s approach actually segments two recognizable privacy groups: the “privacy resilient” and the “privacy vulnerable.” We then trace the contours of a more usable segmentation and consider whether privacy segmentations contribute usefully to political discourse on privacy.
Keywords: survey research, westin, privacy pragmatists, consumer vulnerability, privacy knowledge, privacy attitudes
JEL Classification: C42, D12, D18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation