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Individuals' privacy concern about commercial actors online

Delaney, David (2015) Individuals' privacy concern about commercial actors online. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This dissertation investigates individuals' privacy concerns about commercial actors online, where commercial actors are private organisations that profit through the collection and on-sale of, and/or targeted advertising using, the information individuals disclose online. My purpose is to demonstrate the affect that low privacy concerns for commercial actors can have on individuals’ privacy online, and to establish how and why these low privacy concerns are common among most individuals. I argue that individuals’ online privacy is inadequately protected from commercial actors’ information gathering practices, and that this will remain the case as long individuals do not harbour concerns for commercial actors. My argument is separated into three chapters. In the first chapter I illustrate the inadequate protections individuals have against commercial actors, who employ technologies to implicitly collect individuals’ personal information. In Chapter Two I establish the impact that individuals heightened privacy concerns can have on commercial actors. Cases of this are rare however, as I argue that commercial actors’ use privacy controls and strategic deployment of privacy related changes to successfully lower individuals’ privacy concerns. In Chapter Three I seek to understand why commercial actors’ privacy concern reducing techniques are effective by inspecting a particular online demographic – young adults. I conduct a long answer survey of 25 young adults to complement the scholarly research in the field. I argue that young adults do not harbour privacy concerns for commercial actors as they perceive more immediate privacy threats elsewhere online, specifically those that exist within their online network. I ultimately conclude that individuals’ privacy has inadequate protections against commercial actors, but that any attempt to improve these protections will have to clearly communicate to individuals both the commercial actors’ practices and why their actions justify concern.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Richardson, Ingrid
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