Strangers on a Plane: Context-Dependent Willingness to Divulge Sensitive Information

Journal of Consumer Research, 37(5), 858-873

16 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2019 Last revised: 11 Jan 2019

See all articles by Leslie K. John

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School

Alessandro Acquisti

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

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

New marketing paradigms that exploit the capabilities for data collection, aggregation, and dissemination introduced by the Internet provide benefits to consumers but also pose real or perceived privacy hazards. In four experiments, we seek to understand consumer decisions to reveal or withhold information and the relationship between such decisions and objective hazards posed by information revelation. Our central thesis, and a central finding of all four experiments, is that disclosure of private information is responsive to environmental cues that bear little connection, or are even inversely related, to objective hazards. We address underlying processes and rule out alternative explanations by eliciting subjective judgments of the sensitivity of inquiries (experiment 3) and by showing that the effect of cues diminishes if privacy concern is activated at the outset of the experiment (experiment 4). This research highlights consumer vulnerabilities in navigating increasingly complex privacy issues introduced by new information technologies.

Keywords: Privacy, Sensitive Information

Suggested Citation

John, Leslie K. and Acquisti, Alessandro and Loewenstein, George F., Strangers on a Plane: Context-Dependent Willingness to Divulge Sensitive Information (2011). Journal of Consumer Research, 37(5), 858-873, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3305346

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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)

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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