Abstract - The Information Society 18(1)

Toward a Typology of Internet Users and Online Privacy Concerns

Kim Sheehan

Traditional typologies of consumer privacy concern suggest that consumers fall intro three distinct groups: one-fourth of consumers are not concerned about privacy, one-fourth are highly concerned, and half are pragmatic, in that their concerns about privacy depends on the situation presented. This study examines online users to determine whether types of privacy concern online mirror the offline environment. An e-mail survey of online users examined perceived privacy concerns of fifteen different situations involving collection and usage of personally identifiable information. Results indicate that the vast majority of online users are pragmatic when it comes to privacy. Further analysis of the data suggested that online users can be segmented into four distinct groups, representing differing levels of privacy concern. Distinct demographic differences were seen. Persons with higher levels of education are more concerned about their privacy online than persons with less education. Additionally, persons over the age of 45 tended to be either not at all concerned about privacy or highly concerned about privacy. Younger persons tended to be more pragmatic. Content and policy implications are provided.

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