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Cross-Cultural Differences in the Contextual Information Norms in Users’ Privacy Decision-Making

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Context plays an important role in shaping users’ privacy attitudes and behaviors. Users manage their personal information disclosure according to the norms of the specific context. Information sharing that is appropriate in one context may become inappropriate in another due to different norms. Such contextual information norms may vary in different national cultures. For example, users in different countries have different attitudes towards medical information sharing. Hence, as many technologies have become available around the world and users increasingly share information online with people from different countries and cultures, there is an urgent need of investigation into the concrete cultural differences in contextual information norms in the use of technologies. Such investigation is important to understand how users in different cultures manage their information privacy differently and to inform the privacy design for technologies that are used globally.

The goal of this dissertation is to understand how contextual information norms differ in different national cultures. To answer this, I conduct three cross-cultural quantitative studies. In the first study, I focus on the cross-cultural differences in contextual information norms when users share their personal information with organizations, such as governments, companies, third parties, employers, etc. Through machine learning and regression analysis on a large-scale survey data from eight countries, I model how the contextual impact differs in different national cultures. In the second and third study, I study cross-cultural differences in contextual impact in users’ interpersonal information disclosure on social network sites (SNS). The second study is about how the social context of other people sharing on SNSs (social norms) influences users’ information disclosure. The third study is about how contextual factors that characterize interpersonal relationships influence users’ privacy decisions on SNS friend requests. The findings from these three studies show that contextual information norms vary across different national cultures, especially between individualistic and collectivistic cultures. I discuss the theoretical implications based on these findings and suggest design practices on how to customize privacy support in technologies for users in different national cultures. This work contributes to multiple domains of literature including privacy, context-aware systems, cross-cultural studies and human-computer interaction.

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This item is under embargo until May 23, 2025.