Aerendir Mobile is interrogating the Privacy Paradox in a new report published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. In its most basic form, the Privacy Paradox holds that while people claim to value privacy in theory, they are not as precious about their privacy in practice.
The Paradox is used to explain people’s willingness to share personal information with governments, corporations, and other digital service providers. The thinking is that while consumers do value privacy, they also value convenience, and consequently view data permissions as a fair exchange for more personalized user experiences.
Aerendir’s research calls that logic into question, suggesting that consumers are only willing to make that compromise because they have never been presented with an alternative. As it stands, there are virtually no mainstream digital services that do not collect the user’s personal information. That means that users are forced to give up their personal information in order to participate in the professional world, and that the decision to do so is not voluntary.
More to the point, it means that the Privacy Paradox itself is a self-serving device that justifies predatory data collection practices. The Paradox assumes that consumers are empowered agents with the ability to make informed decisions. Aerendir’s research indicates that consumers do not feel like they are on equal footing with much larger corporations, and the power imbalance makes the choice coercive. By claiming otherwise, corporations are essentially giving themselves an excuse to continue their current behavior.
Consumers are aware of that false choice. Ninety percent of the respondents in Aerendir’s study would prefer that their personal information remain private, and the fact that that is not an option has generated “feelings of hostility, disgust, anger, and other negative emotions.” Those results predate Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, but if anything, Aerendir argues that those feelings have only solidified in the wake of that and other high profile security incidents.
Aerendir indicated that it has already conducted follow-up studies. The company advocates for a more privacy-oriented business models that give people more control over their personal information.
August 18, 2020 – by Eric Weiss