Understanding the Effects of Analytical Choices on Finding the Privacy Paradox: A Specification Curve Analysis of Large-Scale Survey Data

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Description: The privacy paradox suggests that privacy concerns do not relate to privacy-related behavior. Although it has inspired numerous studies, findings remain inconclusive. Some of the inconsistencies in published findings may be explained by a strong heterogeneity in the conceptual and analytical choices that researchers implement when investigating the privacy paradox. Based on representative survey data of the 27 EU states (2011: n = 8,962; 2015: n = 10,526; 2019: n = 11,428), I investigated the effect of conceptual and analytical decisions on ‘finding’ the privacy paradox. Specification curve analyses revealed that the magnitude and statistical significance of the relationship between privacy concerns and information disclosure is contingent on the operationalization of the independent variable, the inclusion of covariates, and the age of the studied population. The relationship between online privacy concerns and using social media privacy settings, in contrast, was less influenced by analytical decisions and overall inconsistent with the privacy paradox. Yet, the relationship was stronger in younger people and increased over time. The findings call for more transparency in analyzing research data. Evaluating the implications of analytical choices will help to establish best practices and advance cumulative knowledge creation in privacy research.

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