Internet users give up privacy to trustworthy recipients

Washington, Nov 23: Internet UserInternet users reveal more personal information online if they believe that they can trust the organisation that requests the information, says a new research.

The project, ‘Privacy and Self-Disclosure Online’, led by Dr Adam Joinson, found that people who had previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy would accept losses to their privacy if they trusted the recipient of their personal information.

“Even people who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy will accept losses to their privacy if they trust the recipient of their personal information,” Joinson said.

In the first of its kind study, rigorous methods were used to measure Internet users actual behaviour.

The project has targeted a number of groups who can benefit from the findings, including health professionals, higher education professionals and survey bodies.

Dr Joinson explained: “For the first time we have research which actually analyses what people do online, rather than just looking at what they say they do.”

Out of all the participants studied, 56 percent of Internet users stated that they had concerns about privacy when they were online.

The issue was whether websites were seen as particularly trustworthy, or untrustworthy, causing users to alter their behaviour.

When a website is designed to look trustworthy, people are willing to accept privacy violations. But, the same actions by an untrustworthy site leads to people behaving in a much more guarded manner.

Also, researchers looked at the way the wording of questions and the design of response options further influenced levels of self-disclosure.

For instance, if the response ‘I prefer not to say’ appears at the top of an options list, users are far less likely to disclose information.

Similarly, if given the opportunity to remain vague in their responses, like- in choosing how wide the scale that represents their salary is, they are more likely to opt for less disclosure.

“One of the most interesting aspects of our findings, is that even people who genuinely have a high level of concern regarding privacy online may act in a way that is contrary to their stated attitudes when they come across a particular set of conditions,” Joinson said.

According to this research, how a user assesses the trustworthiness of a website may have a real impact on the success of that service.

In addition, findings would be used to guide policy regarding how the public could be encouraged to make informed choices regarding online privacy. (ANI)