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The Viability of Removing Personal Information from Online White Page Directories: Are Consumer Perceptions Aligned with Reality?



This research undertakes two related studies to investigate the difficulties faced and costs incurred by consumers in order to remove information about themselves from online white page directories. These directories contain an aggregate of personal information and create threats to consumers by allotting easy access. A survey study examines consumer awareness of these online directories and expectations of opt-out procedures. A field study tracks attempts at actual information removal for twenty volunteers to provide a real-world assessment of the effectiveness of current opt-out mechanisms. The results reveal a dramatic misalignment between consumer expectations and the reality of current opt-out practices. The results highlight the costs and difficulties associated with opt-outs and bring the validity of these mechanisms into question.