Consumers' Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Responses to an Invasion of Privacy: Essays on Understanding Consumer's Privacy Concerns



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This dissertation focuses on the discrepancy between consumers? attitudes towards privacy and actual behavior. Although consumers increasingly protest against invasions of privacy, they routinely disclose more information than their disclosure intent. Firms make sizeable investments in acquiring consumer information because it helps them build and enhance customer relationships. However, some of the information acquisition occurs at the expense of consumers? privacy. Against this backdrop, understanding and being responsive to consumers? privacy concerns is critical. Essay 1 focuses on consumers? thoughts and feelings underlying their intention to disclose or withhold information from firms. I use the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET), a depth interviewing process that involves story-telling, sensory images, and vignettes based on psychodrama. The results reported are based on depth interviews of twenty consumers from a large city and mid-sized town in the U.S.A. Essay 2 focuses on consumers? behavioral responses to an invasion of privacy from a social justice theory perspective. I use the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) in an online survey of 997 respondents to understand thoughts and feelings about privacy that drive the behavioral responses of consumers to an actual/potential invasion of privacy. I identify the antecedents and outcomes of consumers? information experience with firms. Additionally, I examine vividness effects to understand the extent to which consumer perceptions of likely outcomes due to firms acquiring and using information about them are influenced by media coverage of the issue. Building on the findings of essays 1 and 2, I develop a model and working hypotheses for further empirical analysis. By examining the negative (i.e., violation of privacy) as well as positive experiences of consumers, I identify how consumers? attitudes towards firms acquiring and using information about them are focused on risks, whereas their behavior takes into account risks as well as rewards. A better understanding of consumers? privacy concerns can be valuable to firms in personalizing their data acquisition and use strategies, customer communications as well as their overall customer relationship management (CRM) strategy.