Pacific Asia Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Background: Though limited, research has found that individuals' privacy concerns could be swayed by counter argument. This study investigated the swaying influence of amplifying vs. diminishing argument (i.e., counter argument seeking to increase or decrease privacy concerns) on individuals’ privacy concerns and the moderating influences of level of sensitivity and privacy-related knowledge.

Method: Data was collected using online survey and respondents were college students enrolled in a Midwestern university. 215 students participated in the survey, resulting in 180 completed responses; two factors (survey competition time and response consistency for reversely-coded items) were used to screen response quality and 90 responses were kept. Data was analyzed using univariate analysis.

Results: Results suggest that the swaying influence of counter argument depends on the level of sensitivity—the swaying influence is greater when individuals are presented with amplifying (diminishing) argument for a highly (less) sensitive issue/scenario. In addition, although the swaying influence is smaller for those with high privacy knowledge in general, it is not necessarily easier to sway those with low privacy knowledge. Instead, those with low privacy knowledge are more likely to get stuck or trapped in their existing privacy beliefs when facing privacy argument inconsistent with their existing beliefs, and are more likely to be provoked or stirred up when facing argument reinforcing their existing beliefs.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that when processing privacy argument, individuals show confirmation bias and tend to “go with their initial assessments”. This is especially true for those with low privacy knowledge. When facing privacy related argument, individuals with low privacy knowledge behave the opposite of how magnets work—while magnets’ opposite poles attract each other and similar poles repel, individuals with low privacy knowledge embrace argument consistent with their existing beliefs and repel/reject argument inconsistent with their existing beliefs.