Shopping for Privacy on the Internet



Privacy is a concern for all major stakeholders in modern society, and technology to erode privacy continually emerges. Studies show that individuals are concerned about database privacy; yet, they seldom make privacy a salient attribute when deciding among competing alternatives. Although privacy policies are present on many Web sites, Web users rarely bother to read them. Professor Nehf explores why this is so, identifying rational reasons why Web users do not shop for privacy and discussing the implications for the expanding market for consumer information. Unless privacy becomes a salient attribute influencing consumer choice, Web site operators will continue to obtain and use more personal information than Web users would choose to provide in a more transparent exchange. In a responding commentary, Professors Pitt and Watson use an ecosystem approach that explores the multiple dimensions of privacy. Investigating the interactions between the three major players—citizen/consumer/investor, government, and corporation—they identify reasons for the failure of market mechanisms to arise to protect privacy.