Privacy studies

Article examines the state of information privacy studies

Accounting and information systems professor France Belanger and co-author and Pamplin graduate Robert E. Crossler (Ph.D./GBUA ’09) of the University of Texas–Pan American examine the state of information privacy studies in their article, “Privacy in the digital age: a review of information privacy research in information systems,” forthcoming in MIS Quarterly.

MIS Quarterly

More than 500 articles examined

“Information privacy refers to the desire of individuals to control or have some influence over data about themselves,” Belanger and Crossler write. Their review of more than 500 journal articles revealed several important insights about information privacy research in the IS field, they note.

  • A wide variety of information privacy topics interest IS researchers, but some are more popular than others. Popular topics include privacy concerns, attitudes, and practices and e-business impacts. Less researched topics include trust, culture, security, risk, marketing, and economics.
  • Studies have largely focused on explaining and predicting theories rather than on “design and action” contributions, such as privacy protection tools and technologies.
  • Research is heavily reliant on student-based and U.S.-centric samples, which, the authors say, leads to findings of limited generalizability. “For example, anecdotal evidence shows that students tend to be more willing to give information (think than professionals. How do such differences affect overall findings regarding information privacy concerns?”
  • Though information privacy is a multi-level concept — it can be analyzed in terms of the individual, group, organization, or society — rarely is it studied as such, with research concentrated on the individual. “Very few researchers study information privacy concerns of organizations,” Belanger says, “even though some researchers do seem to believe concerns exist since they design and/or evaluate tools for companies to use.”

Technology and privacy changing fast

Belanger and Crossler explore these issues in depth and discuss the implications of their findings. Information privacy, they conclude, is an exciting research domain “that will continue to evolve, as new technologies and new initiatives, such as social networking or virtual worlds, further push the limit of access to information.”

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