Private Displays of Affection: An Empirical Examination of Online Crowdfunder Information Hiding Behaviour



The demand for online privacy remains an on-going source of debate. Sensitive to this fact, many online platforms now offer users greater, more granular control over how and when their information is revealed. However, little research exists on peoples’ willingness to use these information control mechanisms, or on their economic benefit to the various parties involved. In this study, we leverage transaction-level data from one of the world's largest online crowd funding platforms, where campaign contributors are given the option of concealing their identity and contribution amounts from public display. First, we find evidence that individuals are more likely to conceal information when the campaign they are supporting has received a greater deal of public exposure and ii) when their contribution amount is “extreme.” Second, we find evidence of an anchoring effect, where contributors refer to the amounts supplied by prior others as a point of reference when deciding upon their own contribution. Considering the marginal effects, we find that concealing the prior contribution amount can be beneficial or detrimental for the purveyor or campaign organizer, depending on the contribution size. If prior contributions are small, concealing the amount is likely to be preferred, in order to prevent a downward influence on subsequent contributions. In contrast, when prior contributions are large, it is to the purveyor and campaign organizer’s benefit if the amount is revealed, as this can create an upward influence on subsequent contributions. This finding implies that a nuanced approach to the provision of information hiding mechanisms can help promote larger crowd funder contribution. We discuss the implications for the design and provision of online information hiding mechanisms.

Sunil Wattal is an Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at the Fox School of Business, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA. Dr. Wattal’s expertise focuses on social computing and innovation in technology industries, as well as applying advanced econometric models and integrating multiple data sources to quantify the value of social media and crowd-funded marketplaces. His work has been published in top academic journals such as MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, Journal of Management information Systems, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, and in international conference proceedings. He has also received nomination for Best Paper Award at the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), and a Meritorious Reviewer Award from Management Science. He has served as a Special Associate Editor for MIS Quarterly and an Associate Editor for the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS). Dr. Wattal has worked as a design engineer, business development executive, and analyst. Most recently, he worked as a senior analyst to analyse sales and pricing data in the healthcare industry. His teaching interests include data analytics, information technology management, and internet enabled supply chains. He holds a Bachelor’s in Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani (India), an MBA from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (India), an MS (Industrial Administration) from Carnegie Mellon University, and a PhD from the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University.