Nav: Home

Online shoppers will pay extra to protect privacy, Carnegie Mellon study shows

June 06, 2007

Pittsburgh - People are willing to pay extra to buy items from online retailers when they can easily ascertain how retailers' policies will protect their privacy, a new Carnegie Mellon University study shows. Participants in the laboratory study used a Carnegie Mellon shopping search engine called Privacy Finder, http://www.privacyfinder.org, which can automatically evaluate a Web site's privacy policies and display the results on the search results page. The study, led by Lorrie Cranor, director of the Carnegie Mellon Usable Privacy and Security (CUPS) Lab, found that people were more likely to buy from online merchants with good privacy policies, which were identified by Privacy Finder. They were also willing to pay about 60 cents extra on a $15 purchase when buying from a site with a privacy policy they liked.

Findings from the study, the first to suggest that people will pay a premium to protect their privacy when shopping online, will be presented Friday, June 8, at the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security, an international meeting hosted by Carnegie Mellon that begins Thursday, June 7. In addition to Cranor, the research team included Alessandro Acquisti, assistant professor of information technology and public policy, and graduate students Janice Tsai and Serge Egelman.

Many people express concerns that unscrupulous online merchants might misuse credit information, target spam to their email addresses or otherwise violate their privacy. But a number of previous studies have found that many people still fail to act to protect their privacy online. Some have shown that people willingly give up private information in return for lower prices or even the mere chance of a monetary reward.

"Our suspicion was that people care about their privacy, but that it's often difficult for them to get information about a Web site's privacy policies," said Cranor, an associate research professor of computer science and of engineering and public policy. A Web site's policies may not be readily accessible, can be hard to interpret and sometimes are nonexistent, Cranor said. "People can't act on information that they don't have or can't understand," she added.

Privacy Finder is a search engine developed by Cranor and her students to address this issue. The engine makes use of the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P), a technical standard for creating machine-readable privacy policies. About 10 percent of Web sites overall and more than 20 percent of e-commerce sites now employ P3P, Cranor said, and of the top 100 most-visited Web sites, about a third use P3P. The search engine can automatically read and evaluate the policies of Web sites that employ P3P, and it displays this information as a series of colored squares that indicate to the user whether the site's privacy policy complies with his or her privacy preferences.

In the new study, Cranor and her colleagues recruited 72 people to make online purchases. Some used Privacy Finder while others did not. They were given $45 and asked to buy two items -- a package of batteries and a vibrating sex toy -- each of which cost about $15. Participants were allowed to keep the items and any surplus money, so they had a financial incentive to buy from the cheapest online retailers. Those who used Privacy Finder made purchases from sites with "high privacy" ratings for 50 percent of the battery purchases and 33 percent of the sex toy purchases.

Cranor said they had expected people to be more sensitive about privacy in purchases of the sex toy, but the findings proved inconclusive on that point. Additional research is necessary to resolve that issue and to better determine how much of a premium purchasers are willing to pay. This study focused on whether people would pay a premium, not on how much they would pay.
-end-
About Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a distinctive mix of programs in engineering, computer science, robotics, business, public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovation. A small student-to-faculty ratio provides an opportunity for close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive on its 144-acre Pittsburgh campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among leading research universities for the world-renowned programs in its College of Fine Arts. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif., and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe. For more, see http://www.cmu.edu.

Carnegie Mellon University

Related Search Engine Articles:

Deep learning: A new engine for ecological resource research
Deep learning is driven by big data, which brings new opportunities for target classification, detection, semantic segmentation, instance segmentation, and regression in ecological resource research.
Microbiome search engine can increase efficiency in disease detection and diagnosis
An international team of researchers has proposed a microbiome search-based method, via Microbiome Search Engine, to analyze the wealth of available health data to detect and diagnose human diseases.  
Researchers wake monkeys by stimulating 'engine' of consciousness in brain
A small amount of electricity delivered at a specific frequency to a particular point in the brain will snap a monkey out of even deep anesthesia, pointing to a circuit of brain activity key to consciousness and suggesting potential treatments for debilitating brain disorders.
Knowledge Engine is ready to accelerate genomic research
Five years ago, a team of computer scientists, biomedical researchers, and bioinformaticians set out to bring the power of collective knowledge to genomic research.
Locomotor engine in the spinal cord revealed
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have revealed a new principle of organization which explains how locomotion is coordinated in vertebrates akin to an engine with three gears.
Physicists create world's smallest engine
The research explains how random fluctuations affect the operation of microscopic machines like this tiny motor.
The web meets genomics: a DNA search engine for microbes
Microbes are the most common and diverse organisms on the planet.
Scientists develop microbiome search engine to assess microbiome novelty and impact
Scientists from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology developed a way to objectively evaluate the novelty and impact of plethora of microbiomes in the vast universe of microbiome big-data, based on an innovative tool called Microbiome Search Engine (MSE).
A wrench in Earth's engine
Researchers from CU Boulder report that they may have pinned down the cause of 'stagnant slabs,' which resemble a wrench in the engine of the planet.
Targeting the engine room of the cancer cell
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) have developed a highly innovative computational framework that can support personalized cancer treatment by matching individual tumors with the drugs or drug combinations that are most likely to kill them.
More Search Engine News and Search Engine Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.