UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding the information privacy-related perceptions and behaviors of an online social network user Bulgurcu, Burcu


The popularity of Online Social Networks (OSNs) has posed substantial challenges to users in protection of their information privacy. Academic research in this area is still limited in scope and depth. Given the paucity of research in this domain, the following research aims to further our understanding of information privacy in OSNs by focusing on users’ information privacy-related perceptions and behavioral responses. To fulfill this objective, one conceptual and two empirical studies have been conducted in this thesis. The objective of Study #1 is to develop a theoretical foundation for users’ privacy-related perceptions and behavioral responses by integrating two major literatures on coping and information privacy. This study forms the foundation for the theory and methodology of the subsequent two empirical studies. The objective of Study #2 is to develop an empirical understanding of the factors that affect a user’s motivation to cope with a privacy threat associated with using a social application. Drawing on the data collected from 197 Facebook users, the study shows that factors such as a user’s benefit, privacy threat, and threat avoidability perceptions are influential on his privacy threat coping motivations. The objective of Study #3 is to empirically investigate the factors that shape a user’s privacy threat perception, and in turn, his intention to use a social application. Drawing on the data collected from 747 Facebook users, the study reveals that while permission request (i.e., the extent of permissions requested by an application to access, process, and utilize a user’s personal information) can increase a user’s privacy threat perceptions, this effect can be reduced by privacy control (i.e., the extent of privacy safeguards provided by an application to enable a user to customize the requested permissions according to his privacy preferences). Overall, this research contributes to the literature by furthering our understanding of (1) an OSN user’s perceptions and behaviors that can increase his vulnerability to privacy invasions, (2) the processes by which a user copes with a privacy threat associated with his use of an OSN feature, (3) the factors that affect his privacy threat perceptions and intentions to use an OSN feature.

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