Allow or Deny: The Impact of Information Access Mode on Willingness to Share Personal Information
Online privacy is a topic of ever-increasing relevance for consumers, managers, and policy makers. In recent years, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have been constantly evolving the privacy settings in an attempt to provide their users with more options for privacy decisions, including different formats for selecting who their “online audience” will be (i.e., who will be the people with access to the information they share online). While research has shown that having more options for privacy settings can lead users to being less cautious when sharing personal information, little is known about how different formats of privacy settings can impact the way in which people share their personal information. We address this question, specifically focusing on different modes of providing access to personal information – namely, “allowing access” where people choose who from the set of their online “friends” can see the information shared versus “denying access” where one determines who cannot see the information shared. Through a series of studies studies, using social network contexts and mobile phone application (app) contexts, we show that the willingness to share personal information is higher when people select who to allow versus who to deny access to their personal information. This result is robust to the audience with access being the same across the two conditions, whether access is allowed/denied to people or to apps, and regardless of the number of apps with access. Furthermore, we show that making the people with access salient increases sharing in the deny (vs. allow) condition, while making the uncertainty of people with access salient reduces sharing in the allow (vs. deny) condition.
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