Trading with privacy: The price of personal information

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine how users in an anonymous virtual environment react to an offer to trade in access to their social network profile. Design/methodology/approach - The experiment was conducted in Second Life (SL). Participants were offered varied sums of money in exchange for access to their Facebook profile, effectively undermining their anonymity. Findings - Even in an anonymous environment, money plays a role in users' decisions to disclose their offline identity, but a closer look at the findings reveals that users also use deception to enjoy the benefits of the offer without paying the costs. The results illustrate three types of users according to the strategies they employ: abstainers, traders, and deceivers. Research limitations/implications - The implications to the field of online information disclosure lie at the ability to illustrate and distinguish between the different strategies users choose with regard to online information disclosure, as the study design simulates a common information disclosure trade offer in online environments. Originality/value - Unlike previous studies that focussed on trades with specific pieces of information, this study examines willingness to sell access to a user's entire profile, by thus better simulating online services conduct. This is also the first privacy experiment conducted in the anonymous environment of SL, and the first to study deception as a privacy protection strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-938
Number of pages16
JournalOnline Information Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - 9 Nov 2015


  • Anonymity
  • Information economy
  • Information sharing
  • Privacy
  • Social networks
  • Virtual worlds


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