Personalized e-services: Consumer privacy concern and information sharing
Seungsin Lee (Konkuk University), Younghee Lee (Konkuk University), Joing-In Lee (Konkuk University), and Jungkun Park (University of Houston), 2015, 43(5), 729–740

In the news this month was a story of government vs. business, a showdown on privacy rights and legal responsibilities. The FBI wanted to unlock the phone of the San Bernadino gunman, and Apple refused to do so. Although the matter did not end up in the courts, it did, for many, raise the question of privacy concerns in our hyper-connected .

Several SBP authors addressed this topic last year, and I was interested in the outcomes of the research by Lee, Lee, Lee, and Park, who examined the correlations between privacy concerns and attitudes towards personalization of e-services. They revealed many of the potential concerns held by consumers about their personal details and past behavior being used to customize e-stores or services. It makes sense: when we visit physical stores, the personalization of their products and services is usually accomplished by the social interactions we have with sales staff. They understand our needs and expectations, and make suggestions accordingly. But how is that accomplished in an e-store? Do we want our personal information used “against” us? Do we want an algorithm to provide suggestions of “other products you might like”?

The authors acknowledge that “suspicion about where personal information is stored by websites may trigger privacy concerns among individual consumers and lead them to remove their information, spread negative feedback, or complain to a third-party” (p. 731). 

So what did Lee et al. find? Customers with a low concern for privacy, and a willingness to share their personal information responded positively to e-personalization features. Also, customers who had a high concern for privacy, but also had extensive online experience, viewed website personalization features positively. A key point was that privacy concern seemed to stem, not from distrust of online services, but from the degree of experience with and interest in online shopping. 

I look forward to reading more work on this timely topic of privacy concern, whether it be related to application usage on cellphones, customization of e-services, or any other facet of our lives where our behaviors and attitudes are affected by modern technology.

Alex Cheyne | Managing Editor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal