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The privacy paradox describes people's willingness to disclose personal information on social network sites despite expressing high levels of concern. In this study, we employ the distinction between institutional and social privacy to examine this phenomenon. We investigate what strategies undergraduate students have developed, and their motivations for using specific strategies. We employed a mixed-methods approach that included 77 surveys and 21 in-depth interviews. The results suggest that, in addition to using the default privacy settings, students have developed a number of strategies to address their privacy needs. These strategies are used primarily to guard against social privacy threats and consist of excluding contact information, using the limited profile option, untagging and removing photographs, and limiting Friendship requests from strangers. Privacy strategies are geared toward managing the Facebook profile, which we argue functions as a front stage. This active profile management allows users to negotiate the need for connecting on Facebook with the desire for increased privacy. Thus, users disclose information, because they have made a conscious effort to protect themselves against potential violations. We conclude that there is a tilt toward social privacy concerns. Little concern was raised about institutional privacy and no strategies were in place to protect against threats from the use of personal data by institutions. This is relevant for policy discussions, because it suggests that the collection, aggregation, and utilization of personal data for targeted advertisement have become an accepted social norm.
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Keywords: Facebook; Internet privacy; information revelation; privacy protection strategies; social network sites (SNSs)

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UMBC, Information Systems, 1000 Hilltop Circle, ITE 404Baltimore,MD,21250, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2013

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