Previous research has shown that people seldom experience privacy violations while using the internet, such as unwanted and unknown sharing of personal information, credit card fraud or identity theft. With this study, we ask whether individuals’ online privacy concerns increase and online information disclosure decreases if they experience such a worst-case scenario. Using representative data from a five-wave panel study (n = 745), we found that people who generally experience more privacy violations also have stronger privacy concerns (between-person differences). However, people who experienced more privacy violations than usual in the last six months were only slightly more concerned afterwards and did not change their disclosure behavior afterwards (within-person effects). The need for privacy moderated these processes. We untangle under which circumstances such experiences may be transformative and discuss practical and conceptual consequences of how experiences translate into concerns, but not necessarily behaviors.
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