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Abstract

Privacy and security concerns are pervasive because of the ease of access to information. Recurrent negative cases in the popular press attest to the failure of current privacy regulations to keep consumer and protected health information sufficiently secure in today’s climate of increased IT use. One reason for such failure is that organizations violate these regulations for multiple reasons. To address this issue, we propose a theoretical model to explain the likelihood that organizations will select an externally governed privacy or security rule for violation in response to organizational strain or slack resources. Our proposed theoretical model, the selective organizational information privacy and security violations model (SOIPSVM), explains how organizational structures and processes, along with characteristics of regulatory rules, alter perceptions of risk when an organization’s performance does not match its aspiration levels and, thereby, affects the likelihood of rule violations. Importantly, we contextualize SOIPSVM to organizational privacy and security violations. SOIPSVM builds on and extends the selective organizational rule violations model (SORVM), which posits that organizational rule violations are selective. SOIPSVM provides at least four contributions to the privacy and security literature that can further guide empirical research and practice. First, SOIPSVM introduces the concept of selectivity in rule violations to privacy and security research. This concept can improve privacy and security research by showing that organizational violations of privacy and security rules are dynamic and selective yet influenced by external forces. Second, SOIPSVM extends the boundaries of SORVM, which is limited to explaining the behavior of organizations under strain, such as economic hardship. We contribute to the theory of selective deviance by proposing that selectivity extends to organizations with slack resources. Third, we address ideas of non-economic risk and strain in addition to economic risk and strain. Thus, SOIPSVM explains organizational rule-violating behavior as an attempt to protect core organizational values from external entities that pressure organizations to change their values to comply with rules. Fourth, we broaden the theoretical scope of two important constructs (namely, structural secrecy and procedural emphasis) to improve the model’s explanatory power. Fifth, we identify important elements of rule enforcement by drawing from the tenets of general deterrence theory. We also discuss how one can study constructs from general deterrence theory at the organizational level. To conclude, we offer recommendations for the structuring of organizations and external regulations to decrease organizational rule violations, which often lead to the abuse of consumer information.

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