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Choice Architecture, Framing, and Cascaded Privacy Choices


  • Idris Adjerid

    (University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556)

  • Alessandro Acquisti

    (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213)

  • George Loewenstein

    (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213)


For consumers, managing privacy online requires navigating a complex process of interrelated choices. This process may be conceived of as “cascaded,” in that a combination of upstream choices (e.g., of privacy settings on a social network site) and downstream choices (e.g., of what to reveal on the site) together determine ultimate privacy outcomes. In a series of experiments, we examine the potential impact of choice architecture in cascaded privacy choice settings. We investigate how changes in choice frames implemented by service providers can influence consumers’ upstream disclosure settings, often in ways that they are unaware of and that may be destructive to them. Whether the effects of choice frames upstream are ultimately detrimental to individuals’ privacy, however, depends on whether they are offset by more or less protective downstream choices. Thus, we also examine whether such upstream effects of choice architecture are “mitigated” through changes in downstream self-disclosure. We find, first, that various manipulations of decision frames, common in privacy contexts, significantly impact participants’ upstream choice of disclosure settings. Second, we do not find evidence that the impact of choice architecture upstream is mitigated downstream: participants’ self-disclosure rates do not adjust or change in response to choice architecture-induced changes in upstream choices. These findings call into question both policy makers’ and industry advocates’ reliance on choice-based privacy protection mechanisms, contribute to an emerging behavioral perspective on privacy decision making, and highlight the importance of accounting for the cascaded nature of privacy decision making in both policy and managerial settings. This paper was accepted by Uri Gneezy, behavioral economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Idris Adjerid & Alessandro Acquisti & George Loewenstein, 2019. "Choice Architecture, Framing, and Cascaded Privacy Choices," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 67(5), pages 2267-2290, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:65:y:2019:i:5:p:2267-2290
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2018.3028

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    2. Amalia R. Miller, 2022. "Privacy of Digital Health Information," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Privacy, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Epstein, Dmitry & Medzini, Rotem, 2022. "Conversations with fellow leaders: Privacy framing in congressional hearings after Cambridge Analytica," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(10).
    4. Ronny Behrens & Natasha Zhang Foutz & Michael Franklin & Jannis Funk & Fernanda Gutierrez-Navratil & Julian Hofmann & Ulrike Leibfried, 2021. "Leveraging analytics to produce compelling and profitable film content," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 45(2), pages 171-211, June.
    5. Zhao, Meina & Wang, Xuqi, 2021. "Perception value of product-service systems: Neural effects of service experience and customer knowledge," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).

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