The privacy paradox on social network sites revisited: The role of individual characteristics and group norms


Users of social network sites (SNS) often state that they are concerned about their privacy, yet they often disclose detailed personal information on their profiles. This paper assessed the privacy settings of users of two large European SNS. More importantly, it also examined which factors predict the choice of specific privacy settings. The main focus was on the trade-off between privacy concerns and impression management. The paper also looked at the role of the dispositional variables trust and narcissism. These individual factors were contrasted with the effects of perceived group norms. Across three studies it was found that the vast majority of users protected at least certain parts of their profile (e.g., pictures, email address). Moreover, higher protection of profiles was consistently predicted by greater privacy concerns. Impression management motives and narcissism led to less restrictive privacy settings, but these results were less consistent across studies. Perceived social norms played a role in both SNS, whereas dispositional trust had no effect.

social network sites; privacy settings; privacy concerns; social norms
Author biographies

Sonja Utz

Author photoSonja Utz is an assistant professor at the Department of Communication Science, VU University Amsterdam. She graduated in psychology at the Catholic University of Eichstätt (Germany) where she also received her Ph.D. in 1999. Her research interests include social processes in social network sites and other virtual communities, social dilemmas in cyberspace, trust in cyberspace (e.g. eBay), and knowledge management.

Nicole C. Krämer

Author photoNicole Krämer is Professor for "Social Psychology - Media and Communication" at the University Duisburg-Essen since 2007. She finished her PhD in Psychology at the University of Cologne in 2001. In the academic year 2003/2004 she was visiting scholar and visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. In 2006 she received the venia legendi for psychology with a habilitation thesis on "Social effects of embodied conversational agents" at the University of Cologne. Her research interests include human-computer-interaction, social psychological aspects of Web 2.0, nonverbal behaviour and computer supported instructional communication.

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