Understanding individuals’ intentions to limit online personal information disclosures to protect their privacy: implications for organizations and public policy

  • Girish N. PunjEmail author


The purpose of the present research is to understand individuals’ intentions to limit their personal information online to partially anonymize their digital identity. Key concepts from several privacy theories are used to generate hypotheses that can be used to understand the behavior of interest. Data from a national probability sample of 792 adults is used to test the hypotheses. The results indicate that the size of an individual’s digital footprint, their need for control over personal information, and past privacy violations are important determinants of their online information limiting behavior. The findings have important implications for theory and practice. From a theoretical perspective, the findings indicate that individual intentions to limit personal information online seem to be based on a desire to balance their current online exposure with their need to control their personal online information. Past privacy violations also exert an influence on online information disclosures. The research is important for organizations and policy makers in designing privacy policies and proposing regulation that recognizes the dilemma that individuals encounter when they share information online with an organization for mutual benefit.


Privacy Information limiting behavior Anonymity Digital identity Public policy Information protection Regulation 


  1. 1.
    Acquisti A, Brandimarte L, Loewenstein G (2015) Privacy and human behavior in the age of information. Science 347(6221):509–514Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Acquisti A, Grossklags J (2005) Privacy and rationality in individual decision making. IEEE Secur Priv 1:26–33Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ashworth L, Free C (2006) Marketing dataveillance and digital privacy: using theories of justice to understand consumers’ online privacy concerns. J Bus Ethics 67(2):107–123Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Awad NF, Krishnan MS (2006) The personalization privacy paradox: an empirical evaluation of information transparency and the willingness to be profiled online for personalization. MIS Q 30:13–28Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bélanger F, Crossler RE (2011) Privacy in the digital age: a review of information privacy research in information systems. MIS Q 35(4):1017–1042Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Boatright M (2000) Privacy, ethics and the conduct of business, 3rd edn. Prentice-Hall, Saddle River, pp 159–183Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chellappa RK, Sin RG (2005) Personalization versus privacy: an empirical examination of the online consumer’s dilemma. Inf Technol Manag 6(2):181–202Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Chen K, Rea AI Jr (2004) Protecting personal information online: a survey of user privacy concerns and control techniques. J Comput Inf Syst 44(4):85Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Culnan MJ, Armstrong PK (1999) Information privacy concerns, procedural fairness, and impersonal trust: an empirical investigation. Organ Sci 10(1):104–115Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Diamantopoulos A, Winklhofer HM (2001) Index construction with formative indicators: an alternative to scale development. J Mark Res 38(2):269–277Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dinev T, Xu H, Smith JH, Hart P (2013) Information privacy and correlates: an empirical attempt to bridge and distinguish privacy-related concepts. Eur J Inf Syst 22(3):295–316Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Epstein LH, Temple JL, Roemmich JN, Bouton ME (2009) Habituation as a determinant of human food intake. Psychol Rev 116(2):384Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Fukukawa K, Ennew C (2010) What we believe is not always what we do: an empirical investigation into ethically questionable behavior in consumption. J Bus Ethics 91(1):49–60Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gefen D, Ridings CM (2005) If you spoke as she does, sir, instead of the way you do: a sociolinguistics perspective of gender differences in virtual communities. ACM SIGMIS Database 36(2):78–92Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Golder SA, Macy MW (2014) Digital footprints: opportunities and challenges for online social research. Ann Rev Sociol 40:129–152Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hair JF Jr, Hult GTM, Ringle C, Sarstedt M (2017) A primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). Sage Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Harris MA, Brookshire R, Chin AG (2016) Identifying factors influencing consumers’ intent to install mobile applications. Int J Inf Manag 36(3):441–450Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Henseler J, Sarstedt M (2013) Goodness-of-fit indices for partial least squares path modeling. Comput Stat 28(2):565–580Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Hoffman DL, Novak TP, Peralta MA (1999) Information privacy in the marketspace: implications for the commercial uses of anonymity on the Web. Inf Soc 15(2):129–139Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Horne DR, Norberg PA, Cemal Ekin A (2007) Exploring consumer lying in information-based exchanges. J Consum Mark 24(2):90–99Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Jai TMC, King NJ (2015) Privacy versus reward: do loyalty programs increase consumers’ willingness to share personal information with third-party advertisers and data brokers? J Retail Consum Serv 28:296–303Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    James TL, Nottingham Q, Collignon SE, Warkentin M, Ziegelmayer JL (2016) The interpersonal privacy identity (IPI): development of a privacy as control model. Inf Technol Manag 17(4):341–360Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jarvenpaa SL, Tractinsky N, Vitale M (2000) Consumer trust in an Internet store. Inf Technol Manag 1(1–2):45Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Jensen C, Potts C, Jensen C (2005) Privacy practices of Internet users: self-reports versus observed behavior. Int J Hum Comput Stud 63(1):203–227Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Jiang Z, Heng CS, Choi BC (2013) Research note—privacy concerns and privacy-protective behavior in synchronous online social interactions. Inf Syst Res 24(3):579–595Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lambiotte R, Kosinski M (2014) Tracking the digital footprints of personality. Proc IEEE 102(12):1934–1939Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lanier CD, Saini A (2008) Understanding consumer privacy: a review and future directions. Acad Mark Sci Rev 12(2):1–45Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    LaRose R, Rifon N (2006) Your privacy is assured-of being disturbed: websites with and without privacy seals. New Media Soc 8(6):1009–1029Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Li Y (2012) Theories in online information privacy research: a critical review and an integrated framework. Decis Support Syst 54(1):471–481Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Lowry PB, Gaskin J (2014) Partial least squares (PLS) structural equation modeling (SEM) for building and testing behavioral causal theory: when to choose it and how to use it. IEEE Trans Prof Commun 57(2):123–146Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lwin MO, Williams JD (2003) A model integrating the multidimensional developmental theory of privacy and theory of planned behavior to examine fabrication of information online. Mark Lett 14(4):257–272Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Lwin M, Wirtz J, Williams JD (2007) Consumer online privacy concerns and responses: a power–responsibility equilibrium perspective. J Acad Mark Sci 35(4):572–585Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    McKinnon J, Vartabedian M (August 6, 2018) Tech firms, embattled over privacy, warm to federal regulation. Wall Street JournalGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    McSweeney FK, Swindell S (1999) General-process theories of motivation revisited: the role of habituation. Psychol Bull 125(4):437Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Milne GR, Boza ME (1999) Trust and concern in consumers’ perceptions of marketing information management practices. J Interact Mark 13(1):5–24Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Milne GR, Labrecque LI, Cromer C (2009) Toward an understanding of the online consumer’s risky behavior and protection practices. J Consum Aff 43(3):449–473Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Milne GR, Rohm AJ (2000) Consumer privacy and name removal across direct marketing channels: exploring opt-in and opt-out alternatives. J Public Policy Mark 19(2):238–249Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Milne GR, Rohm AJ, Bahl S (2004) Consumers’ protection of online privacy and identity. J Consum Aff 38(2):217–232Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Muhammad SS, Dey BL, Weerakkody V (2018) Analysis of factors that influence customers’ willingness to leave big data digital footprints on social media: a systematic review of literature. Inf Syst Front 20(3):559–576Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Newman AL (2015) What the “right to be forgotten” means for privacy in a digital age. Science 347(6221):507–508Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Norberg PA, Horne DR, Horne DA (2007) The privacy paradox: personal information disclosure intentions versus behaviors. J Consum Aff 41(1):100–126Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Pavlou PA (2011) State of the information privacy literature: where are we now and where should we go? MIS Q 35(4):977–988Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Peltier JW, Milne GR, Phelps JE (2009) Information privacy research: framework for integrating multiple publics, information channels, and responses. J Interact Mark 23(2):191–205Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Petronio S (1991) Communication boundary management: a theoretical model of managing disclosure of private information between marital couples. Commun Theory 1(4):311–335Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Phelps JE, D’Souza G, Nowak GJ (2001) Antecedents and consequences of consumer privacy concerns: an empirical investigation. J Interact Mark 15(4):2–17Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Phelps J, Nowak G, Ferrell E (2000) Privacy concerns and consumer willingness to provide personal information. J Public Policy Mark 19(1):27–41Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Rainie L, Kiesler S, Kang R, Madden M (September 5, 2013) Anonymity, privacy, and security online. Pew Research Center ReportGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Rifon NJ, LaRose R, Choi S (2005) Your privacy is sealed: effects of web privacy seals on trust and personal disclosures. J Consum Aff 39(2):339–362Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ringle CM, Sarstedt M, Straub DW (2012) Editor’s comments: a critical look at the use of PLS-SEM in MIS quarterly. MIS Q 36:iii–xivGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Romanosky S, Acquisti A (2009) Privacy costs and personal data protection: economic and legal perspectives. Berkeley Technol Law J 24:1061Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Romanosky S, Telang R, Acquisti A (2011) Do data breach disclosure laws reduce identity theft? J Policy Anal Manag 30(2):256–286Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Seetharaman D (March 28, 2018) Facebook to streamline privacy settings. Wall Street JournalGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Sheehan KB, Hoy MG (1999) Flaming, complaining, abstaining: how online users respond to privacy concerns. J Advert 28(3):37–51Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Sheehan KB, Hoy MG (2000) Dimensions of privacy concern among online consumers. J Public Policy Mark 19(1):62–73Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Smith HJ, Dinev T, Xu H (2011) Information privacy research: an interdisciplinary review. MIS Q 35(4):989–1016Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Stanton JM, Stam KR (2002) Information technology, privacy, and power within organizations: a view from boundary theory and social exchange perspectives. Surveill Soc 1(2):152–190Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Stewart DW (2017) A comment on privacy. J Acad Mark Sci 45(2):156–159Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Sutanto J, Palme E, Tan CH, Phang CW (2013) Addressing the personalization-privacy paradox: an empirical assessment from a field experiment on smartphone users. MIS Q 37(4):1141–1164Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Taylor H (March 19, 2003) Most people are privacy pragmatists: who, while concerned about privacy, will sometimes trade it off for other benefits. Harris InteractiveGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Van Slyke C, Comunale CL, Belanger F (2002) Gender differences in perceptions of web-based shopping. Commun ACM 45(8):82–86Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    White TB, Novak TP, Hoffman DL (2014) No strings attached: when giving it away versus making them pay reduces consumer information disclosure. J Interact Mark 28(3):184–195Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Wirtz J, Lwin MO, Williams JD (2007) Causes and consequences of consumer online privacy concern. Int J Serv Ind Manag 18(4):326–348Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Xu H, Luo XR, Carroll JM, Rosson MB (2011) The personalization privacy paradox: an exploratory study of decision making process for location-aware marketing. Decis Support Syst 51(1):42–52Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Youn S (2009) Determinants of online privacy concern and its influence on privacy protection behaviors among young adolescents. J Consum Aff 43(3):389–418Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Zwick D, Dholakia N (2004) Whose identity is it anyway? Consumer representation in the age of database marketing. J Macromark 24(1):31–43Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marketing, School of BusinessUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

Personalised recommendations