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Diminished or Just Different? A Factorial Vignette Study of Privacy as a Social Contract

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  • Kirsten Martin

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    Abstract

    A growing body of theory has focused on privacy as being contextually defined, where individuals have highly particularized judgments about the appropriateness of what, why, how, and to whom information flows within a specific context. Such a social contract understanding of privacy could produce more practical guidance for organizations and managers who have employees, users, and future customers all with possibly different conceptions of privacy across contexts. However, this theoretical suggestion, while intuitively appealing, has not been empirically examined. This study validates a social contract approach to privacy by examining whether and how privacy norms vary across communities and contractors. The findings from this theoretical examination support the use of contractual business ethics to understand privacy in research and in practice. As predicted, insiders to a community had significantly different understandings of privacy norms as compared to outsiders. In addition, all respondents held different privacy norms across hypothetical contexts, thereby suggesting privacy norms are contextually understood within a particular community of individuals. The findings support two conclusions. First, individuals hold different privacy norms without necessarily having diminished expectations of privacy. Individuals differed on the factors they considered important in calculating privacy expectations, yet all groups had robust privacy expectations across contexts. Second, outsiders have difficulty in understanding the privacy norms of a particular community. For managers and scholars, this renders privacy expectations more difficult to identify at a distance or in deductive research. The findings speak directly to the needs of organizations to manage a diverse set of privacy issues across stakeholder groups. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-012-1215-8
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

    Volume (Year): 111 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 519-539

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:4:p:519-539

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100281

    Related research

    Keywords: Privacy; Social contract theory; Contractual business ethics; Factorial vignette methodology; Survey;

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    1. G. Alder & Marshall Schminke & Terry Noel, 2007. "The Impact of Individual Ethics on Reactions to Potentially Invasive HR Practices," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 75(2), pages 201-214, October.
    2. Jeffery Thompson & David Hart, 2006. "Psychological Contracts: A Nano-Level Perspective on Social Contract Theory," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 68(3), pages 229-241, October.
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    5. Peter Kennedy, 2003. "A Guide to Econometrics, 5th Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 5, volume 1, number 026261183x, December.
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    7. Pursey Heugens & J. Oosterhout & Muel Kaptein, 2006. "Foundations and Applications for Contractualist Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 68(3), pages 211-228, October.
    8. Laurence Ashworth & Clinton Free, 2006. "Marketing Dataveillance and Digital Privacy: Using Theories of Justice to Understand Consumers’ Online Privacy Concerns," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 67(2), pages 107-123, August.
    9. Thomas Dunfee, 2006. "A Critical Perspective of Integrative Social Contracts Theory: Recurring Criticisms and Next Generation Research Topics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 68(3), pages 303-328, October.
    10. Feng-Yang Kuo & Cathy Lin & Meng-Hsiang Hsu, 2007. "Assessing Gender Differences in Computer Professionals’ Self-Regulatory Efficacy Concerning Information Privacy Practices," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 73(2), pages 145-160, June.
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