A new study by the Economic and Social Research Council found that Internet users are often willing to give up more private information to websites and organizations that appear to be trustworthy:
“Even people who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy will accept losses to their privacy if they trust the recipient of their personal information,” says study leader, Dr. Adam Joinson.
The project, Privacy and Self-Disclosure Online, is the first of its kind. Rather than taking the word of users, their actual habits and responses were studied using various queues, including the look and feel of websites, and how questions pertaining to personal information were phrased and the options available in such questions.
The central idea of the project was to ascertain how subjects would respond to websites that seemed more or less trustworthy. As expected, users were more apt to give up private information to websites that seemed more trustworthy, and act in a more guarded manner to websites that didn't.
In terms of how users responded to questions in particular, researchers found that if an option like “I prefer not to say” appears on the list of available choice, subjects were much less likely to disclose information. In the same token, the more broad a response could be, the wider the scale for an answer that represents their salary for instance, the more likely users offered information.