Measuring individuals’ concerns over collective privacy on social networking sites

Special issue: Online Self-disclosure and Privacy

With the rise of social networking sites (SNSs), individuals not only disclose personal information but also share private information concerning others online. While shared information is co-constructed by self and others, personal and collective privacy boundaries become blurred. Thus there is an increasing concern over information privacy beyond the individual perspective. However, limited research has empirically examined if individuals are concerned about privacy loss not only of their own but their social ties’; nor is there an established instrument for measuring the collective aspect of individuals’ privacy concerns. In order to address this gap in existing literature, we propose a conceptual framework of individuals’ collective privacy concerns in the context of SNSs. Drawing on the Communication Privacy Management (CPM) theory (Petronio, 2002), we suggest three dimensions of collective privacy concerns, namely, collective information access, control and diffusion. This is followed by the development and empirical validation of a preliminary scale of SNS collective privacy concerns (SNSCPC). Structural model analyses confirm the three-dimensional conceptualization of SNSCPC and reveal antecedents of SNS users’ concerns over violations of the collective privacy boundaries. This paper serves as a starting point for theorizing privacy as a collective notion and for understanding online information disclosure as a result of social interaction and group influence.

Privacy concern; collective privacy; social networking sites
Author biographies

Haiyan Jia

Dr. Haiyan Jia is a post-doctoral scholar at the Pennsylvania State University in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. Her research interest primarily focuses on the social and psychological effects of communication technology ranging from Web to mobile apps to smart objects. Her current work investigates online privacy in social and collective contexts.

Heng Xu

Dr. Heng Xu is an associate professor of Information Sciences and Technology at the Pennsylvania State University. Her research focus is on the interplay between social and technological issues associated with information privacy. She approaches privacy issues through a combination of empirical, theoretical, and technical research efforts. Her research projects have been dealing with individuals' information privacy concerns and behaviors, strategic management of organizational privacy and security practices, and design and empirical evaluations of privacy-enhancing technologies.

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