Management Information Systems Quarterly


Across different domains, websites are incorporating social media features, rendering themselves interactive and community-oriented. This study suggests that these “friendly” websites may indirectly encourage users to disclose private information. To investigate this possibility, we carried out online experiments utilizing a YouTube-like video-browsing platform. This platform provides a realistic and controlled environment in which to study users’ behaviors and perceptions during their first encounter with a website. We show that the presence of social cues on a website (e.g., an environment in which users “like” or rate website content) indirectly affects users’ likelihood of disclosing private information to that website (such as full name, address, and birthdate) by enhancing users’ “social perceptions” of the website (i.e., their perceptions that the website is a place where they can socialize with others). We further show that the presence of social cues is more likely to enhance users’ social perceptions when users are primed to perceive the website as trustworthy, as opposed to untrustworthy (through the presentation of trust cues such as data protection disclaimers). Moreover, we rule out users’ privacy concerns as an alternative mechanism influencing the relationship between social cues and information disclosure. We ground our observations in goal systems and trust theories. Our insights may be beneficial both for managers and for policy makers who seek to safeguard users’ privacy.