Who do you trust with your data?

ESRC logoWith the full story of the lost data discs from HM Revenue and Customs still emerging, the topic of data security and disclosure is a political hot potato. New research from the ESRC looks into people’s online behaviour and has found that internet users will reveal more personal information online if they believe they can trust the organisation that requests the information.

‘Even people who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy will accept losses to their privacy if they trust the recipient of their personal information’ says Dr Adam Joinson

Key findings from the study include:

  • If a website is designed to look trustworthy, people are willing to accept privacy violations
  • If the response ‘I prefer not to say’ appears at the top of an options list, users are far less likely to disclose information
  • If given the opportunity to remain vague in their responses, they are more likely to opt for less disclosure e.g. when asked about salary details
  • People with a high level of concern regarding privacy online may act in a way that is contrary to their stated attitudes when they come across a particular set of conditions
  • People who are unconcerned about privacy would soon become opposed to ID cards if the way that they were asked for information made them feel that their privacy was threatened

Find out more about the research from the ESRC Award webpage, the Privacy and Self-Disclosure Online project website and from Adam Joinson’s personal webpage.

Intute: Social Sciences features more resources on the topic of internet security.