Privacy online: perspectives on privacy and self-disclosure in the social web

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Sabine Trepte E-Mail: sabine. These questions have been addressed by Prof. Sabine Trepte University of Hohenheim and Prof. Leonard Reinecke University of Mainz in the context of the DFG-project "Socialization in the social web: A longitudinal study on the effect of the social web on the significance of privacy and self-disclosure". An online-survey with internet users has shown that intensive users have a stronger willingness to disclose personal information than less affine web 2. Whereas this study suggests the importance of willingness to disclose private information online during the selection of the social web, the possible effect of permanent availability of private information in the social web in terms of habitualization or socialization was widely unexplored at the time the project started.

With the project users of the social web were surveyed in a longitudinal study over 1,5 years and asked about their need of privacy and their willingness to disclose intimate information and thus to comprehend the effects of the use of the social web on the importance of privacy. Reinecke, L.

Social Media Data Privacy Awareness

Authenticity and well-being on social network sites: A two-wave longitudinal study on the effects of online-authenticity and the positivity bias in SNS communication. Trepte, S. Pieschl Hrsg. Link zum PDF. Get my own profile Cited by View all All Since Citations h-index 27 20 iindex 55 Users seem to focus on specific applications and stay within these. People who use only a small number of different Social Web applications disclose a lot of sensitive information on the Social Web. Conversely, the disclosure of factual information is hardly related to the number of applications.

Privacy Online: Perspectives On Privacy And Self-Disclosure In The Social Web - Used Books

Hypothesis H5c must also be rejected. This might be explained with users' strong focus on communication with friends and family. It was found that e. If users wish to communicate and maintain contact with close friends and family, it is not necessary for them to use manyfold applications, particularly when users know that their comments will be addressed on a daily basis Ellison et al.

Users who do not want others to know things about them nevertheless disclose factual information such as last name and profession on the Social Web, but with restricted access. Users who are generally more willing to let others know something about them nevertheless prefer restricted disclosure on the Social Web. From this, it can be deduced that even individuals who do not care very much about who knows what and how much about them prefer to reveal this information within a specific community. Concerning the relationship between general willingness and online privacy concerns, a negative impact of general willingness was assumed H7.

This hypothesis is also accepted. It is nevertheless interesting that age and number of applications used is positively correlated. Younger users do not use significantly more different Social Web applications, even though they have grown up with these. In addition, they only marginally disclose more personal information.

Findings here show that this is only marginally the case. Regarding the impact of age on privacy concerns H10 , the result shows that age does not affect the level of online privacy concerns in a linear way. To investigate research question RQ2 on gender differences, it is tested whether the models held for male and female users. For this, the full specified models 1—5 were used to check unconstrained models all path coefficients are freely estimated against metric measurement invariance, where all path coefficients were set as equal in the two submodels male and female users.

It was found that a majority of users disclose personal facts. Factual information, such as names and profession, is obligatory in many Social Web applications. Based on this study, users tend to provide honest and valid information. Fewer users disclose factual information, which cannot be considered standard Social Web information, and if so, often with restricted access.

Furthermore, it was found that sensitive information is disclosed by considerably fewer users. About half of them disclosed experiences, thoughts and feelings on the Social Web at least once.

Stolen Child

However, this study did not assess whether the disclosed information was related to the users' real names or for what purposes they provided it. Several explanations were suggested for this paradox, mainly concerning a lack of awareness and literacy. For example, it could be interesting to differentiate between the fear of identity theft or fraud and the fear of privacy invasion from known people, for example, the concern that a boss or colleague might see private information they should not.

However, in this paper, a moderating influence of other situational, social and interactional variables is confirmed. Taking into account the influence of peers and perceived social relevance, participants in this study rated the social relevance of social media. Here it was found that the higher the people rate the social relevance of the Social Web as important, and the more they focus on the use of specific Social Web applications, the more information they disclose.

Additionally, users have been found trying to construct a certain popularity status within an application through the publishing of private information Christofides et al. It is confirmed here that users tend to stay within only a few applications that are relevant for their social environment, and that within these Social Web applications, they disclose a variety of personal information.

Users who utilize fewer applications disclose more personal information, especially more sensitive information. The results proved this assumption to be true. Users who are generally willing to disclose a lot of personal information disclose the most on the Social Web. This finding indicates that users resist the invitation of the Social Web to disclose a lot of personal information if they are not generally willing to share personal and sensitive information. They also tend to take advantage of SNSs to obtain more: a greater number of postings, a stronger level of regret about inappropriate contents they may have posted on SNSs Moore and McElroy, As such, agreeableness should have positively related with privacy control behavior, which functioned as the last hypothesis:.

H6: Agreeableness is positively associated with privacy behavior on SNSs. Certain researches have been conducted on the relationship between conscientiousness and SNSs use. The results summarized that conscientious individuals upload significantly fewer pictures on SNSs and they hardly have anything to protect online. No hypothesis will be applied. The overarching goal of current studies is to explore how personality affects privacy behavior on SNSs.

First of all, the direct link between FFM and privacy behavior was explored. Then, guided by TPB, the unknown association between personality traits and TPB variables was targeted to examine which traits could have indirect influences on privacy. By integrating both the direct and indirect association, it was able to set up a full model to picture the link between FFM and privacy behavior on SNSs. To finalize the aim, the possible associations between FFM and each specific privacy behavior were also to be discovered.

To evaluate the situation of privacy control behavior for Chinese college students on SNSs, a sample of undergraduates from two universities in Beijing and Tianjin was recruited randomly in These two universities were also randomly chosen to avoid unscientific factors as any manual division intervened sampling strategies such as stratification or clustering could introduce biased results, considering enormous and complexed differences of culturally, geographically and socio-environmentally influenced habitants among Chinese.


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An email list of these undergraduates was obtained from the university student office. An invitation with an exclusive QR code was sent to these students, outlining the brief purpose of the study and an incentive of CNY50 which could be earned once they extract the QR code to enter the survey then validly complete the task. The survey was operated in form of online questionnaire where the data could be accumulated and statistically calculated directly.

The questions were elaborately generated, combining the coverage of TPB core variables and the convenience of understanding and answering for the interviewees. In total, valid questionnaires were collected and 8 were given up because of their missing some important information. Their age ranged from 17 to 23, with an average of They were all full-time students, whose income can be excluded as an external factor.

About thirty percent of the sample are male 59 persons out of and seventy percent are female persons out of Similar to Facebook, Renren has functions of news feeding, friending, communicating, etc. The privacy settings in Renren equip users with certain flexibilities such as blacklist: Renren offers a privacy setting shortcut for the users to decide who have access to their personal profiles. Meanwhile, they can also set different access levels for different contents, for instance, basic information, personal records, educational background, career, and so on.

Three types of variables, which belong to privacy control behavior, TPB, and FFM, respectively, were treated as measures. These variables were constructed based on the fundamentals in the mainstream field of interest to ensure validity, attempting to offer a panorama for the study. To examine the correlation of variables among privacy control behavior, FFM, and TPB, two path analyses were performed. Path analysis is an extension of multiple regression analysis that allows exploration of hypothesized direct and indirect relationships among variables. The construction of the path models follows a two-step approach.

In the second step, the modified TPB model was expended by adding FFM variables to screen the one that can significantly predict privacy behavior or to prove that TPB variables have already been covered in the previous model. To supplement the main findings of the study, each specific privacy control behavior was regressed on FFM personality traits to provide more insights for the study.

Demographic variables such as gender were entered in the first block; FFM factors were entered in the second block. Each item was developed to measure one basic type of privacy control behavior. The attitude toward privacy information control was inquired by two items.


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  • Items answered on a 5-point Likert scale were utilized to measure the extent of the attitude regarding strict privacy settings. Items were averaged to form a scale score. The correlation was 0. The degree of tendency that strict level of privacy settings was adopted by a participant under social pressure was inquired by two other items with a correlation of 0.

    PBC was also measured by two items. On a 5-point Likert scale, participants indicated how strongly they disagreed or agreed that they have the knowledge and ability to protect their private information on SNSs and could or not skillfully control who sees their information. Item scores were averaged; higher scores indicated greater perceived control. The correlation between the two items was significant with a number of 0. Pearson correlations among measures indicated that all TPB variables were closely associated with each other. Pairwise correlations among attitude, subjective norm, PBC and behavior intention were all significant, confirming the possibility of the proposed TPB structure.

    Only neuroticism was significantly correlated with privacy behavior as shown in Figure 1 , which represented that H3 , H5, and H6 were disproved while H4 was corroborated.


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    • Figure 1. The original TPB model provided an atrocious fit. All of the paths were significant except the one from PBC to privacy information control. Thus, H1 was supported but H2 was not. To improve the model fit, the original paths were modified using the raw modification index value M. The modified TPB model provided a fairly satisfying fit as shown in Table 1.

      The amount of behavior variance accounted by the TPB variable were Within this model, one direct path from attitude to behavior was added, see Figure 1. None of the M. It was explored whether paths from FFM to privacy behavior and intention were significant. As a result, only the path from openness to intention and the path from neuroticism to privacy behavior were significant, see Figure 1. The extended TPB model provided a perfect fit that was shown in Table 2. The extra behavior variance accounted by the personality variable were 3.

      It was also explored whether any paths from personality traits to attitude, subjective norms and PBC were significant. The results showed that the mere path from agreeableness to subjective norms was significant, see Figure 2. Figure 2. Path coefficient of TPB model with agreeableness. The results offered considerable confirmation for the proposed purpose, which was lending empirical support to the framework integrating the TPB and personality perspectives. Combining the corroborated H1 and disproved H2 , it could be summarized that attitude, subjective norm and PBC were positively associated with behavior only indirectly via intention.

      At the first level, these variables could be understood as important predictors for privacy behavior, but results also suggested they were important mediators in the relationship between personality and privacy behavior.

      Ariadne Pfad:

      Although the interest was in how personality traits were associated with privacy behavior, it was still beneficial to notice the relationship of these variables. See Figure 3. Figure 3. Path coefficient of modified TPB model. When personality traits were added into the model as described through H3 , H4 , H5, and H6 , only H4 was not rejected by the results.

      Namely, extroversion, neuroticism and openness were positively correlated with privacy behavior on SNSs while agreeableness was negatively correlated. In accordance with the findings from Butt and Phillips , those with high level of neuroticism were more likely to control what information was shared on SNSs. Among the five traits examined, neuroticism was the most relevant to privacy control behavior on SNSs, see Figure 1.

      Further individual analysis revealed that those with high level of neuroticism were not worried about their self-presentation online. On the contrary, they were masters of these privacy settings, setting varying levels of privacy for different friends and allowing only appropriate contents to be seen by the audience they targeted.

      Openness was featured by curiosity, open-mindedness and their willingness to explore new ideas McCrae and John, It was reasonable to hypothesize that individuals with high level of openness were engaged in low levels of privacy information control Ross et al. On the contrary to this intuitive hypothesis, the results implied that openness was positively and indirectly associated with privacy behavior.

      The following regression confirmed this positive association and further suggested that individuals with high level of openness not only increased their default privacy setting but also employed different self-presentational strategies for different targeted audience groups. One possible explanation for these findings was that higher level of openness was correlated with a greater tendency toward the social functions of SNSs. They spent more time, had more friends and posted more photos on SNSs Kuo and Tang, , representing that they had more online risks and had to deal with more collapsed contexts and social norms.

      The results also lent support to the idea that those with high level of agreeableness were more likely to take similar private strategies on SNSs to their friends. The extroverts uploaded photos and updated status more frequently and displayed more friends on SNSs Amichai-Hamburger and Vinitzky, ; Gosling et al. Following the intuition, those who were active on SNSs were also private, the extrovert was expected to be cautious about what they disclosed on SNSs.

      Surprisingly, the results were not consistent with this intuition. It was hardly to achieve true privacy on SNSs, as context boundaries were blurred by the persistent and searchable nature of SNSs. Additionally, posted information like status updates were automatically archived, being accessible at any time.

      It was complex to conduct privacy behavior on SNSs, requiring attention to manage personal impression across a variety of contexts and relationships. Lifting the default privacy setting level would lead to a great loss of targeted audience on SNSs. On the contrary, navigating audience through SNSs and employing different self-presentational strategies for different groups and individuals on the site may result in more social capital bonus Ellison et al.