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Abstract

Privacy concerns can greatly hinder consumers' intentions to interact with a website. The success of a website therefore depends on its ability to improve consumers' perceptions of privacy assurance. Seals and assurance statements are mechanisms often used to increase this assurance; however, the findings of the extant literature regarding the effectiveness of these tools are mixed. We propose a model based on the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) that explains conditions under which privacy assurance is more or less effective, clarifying the contradictory findings in previous literature. We test our model in a free-simulation online experiment, and the results of the analysis indicate that the inclusion of assurance statements and the combination, understanding, and assurance of seals influence privacy assurance. Privacy assurance is most effective when seals and statements are accompanied by the peripheral cues of website quality and brand image and when counter-argumentation—through transaction risk—is minimized. Importantly, we show ELM to be an appropriate theoretical lens to explain the equivocal results in the literature. Finally, we suggest theoretical and practical implications.