March 1, 2024

To disclose or not to disclose, that is the question!

Daniel Guerrero

TL;DR After the announcement of WhatsApp on its new terms of use of users’ data, we feel that somehow full transparency of privacy concerns is not always the best strategy to gain credibility. Somehow, this experience is telling us that the less the better.

This may be a consequence of the mistrust generated by social media scandals and its unscrupulous use of information; but there are behavioral arguments that give us a better understanding of this situation. What should we do then? The answer depends on different context claiming the need to experiment with different framings to disentangle this dilemma.

Currently, permissions on WhatsApp are an all-or-nothing consent to use the app and users cannot selectively grant or decline a subset of them. So, users must choose not to install the application to deny any of the requested permissions. This notice generated such a disagreement that the company decided to postpone the implementation of their new policy until May 2021 with some changes on it (BBC, 2021) in order to avoid a mass exodus of users.

With these notices, companies intend to offer guarantees to consumers about their privacy management practices. Ironically, such guarantees may raise more privacy concerns than alleviate them.

Mostly, the research supports the argument that consumers, by knowing exactly what information companies have access to and understanding how it will be processed, feel more comfortable to provide personal data (Milne et al. 2017; Nowak & Phelps 1992,). In industries where privacy notices are not required by law, the fact that a company voluntarily chooses to disclose its data management practices may indicate that it is trustworthy. However, some privacy notices, while designed to promote a sense of confidence that personal information will not be misused, can trigger privacy concerns that were previously inactive.

This phenomenon is called the “bulletproof glass effect” (Brough, 2020), and bases on the idea that a privacy notice works like bulletproof glass every time it is designed for protection; however, its only presence can create a sense of potential danger and, paradoxically, makes consumers feel more vulnerable than they would in its absence.

Although consumer privacy concerns are often context-dependent and unstable in all situations, privacy notices can decrease rather than increase consumer confidence (Acquisti et al. 2015). This has led many smartphone users to worry about their privacy and opt for paid apps that request less access to personal information.

What about consent for marketing communications?

One of the most common business challenges faced by businesses around the world is marketing consent that enables communication with customers. Expilab’s team has conducted several online field and framed-field experiments seeking the ways how to optimise marketing consent without reverting to dark patterns or sludges. Through close cooperation with data governance, legal, privacy champions our team has designed and tested different interventions that aimed to achieve 3 things: provide full legal compliance, keep customer needs and ensure improved business outcomes (e.g. increase of informed marketing communication consent rates). Here is an example from framed-field experiment for one of the largest Insurance Companies in APAC – some of the best behavioural interventions achieved 80% increase in consent rates while keeping the privacy balance

The choice architecture has shown positive results in terms of informed consent and privacy awareness of users (Bergram et al., 2020). Framing agreements differently and providing alternatives of choice can significantly increase the number of users who are aware and read the terms and privacy policy. However, it does not necessarily increase users’ recall of what they agree to or their compliance

Privacy concerns often remain dormant until consumers are asked to think about them (Marreiros et al., 2017). The evasion of consumer information shows that consumers often prefer ignorance to bad news (Sweeny et al. 2010).

These discussions raise a dilemma and make us wonder: How strategic is it to be completely transparent? Possibly the answer to this question is related to the context or industry in which our companies interact. Today, the large supply of information has made consumers more skeptical and demanding and any false move can generate doubts on the clarity of the rules on businesses and the technology use. This may be a consequence of the mistrust generated by social media scandals and its unscrupulous use of information, or perhaps because of the idea that many companies make money with personal data and consumers receive “nothing” in exchange.

What should we do then?  After knowing these arguments, it would be good to ask ourselves: Is the less the best? To provide context specific privacy notices only when privacy related issues even occurs? Being fully transparent with our clients no matter what? Make it easier for them to understand what are the policy concerns? “To protect them” by lowering the information overload? In the meantime, we can only conclude that it’s necessary to test more intervention and experiment with different framings and choice architectures to disentangle this dilemma and contribute to the business ethics.

Let us know what you think!

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Daniel Guerrero

How companies can increase personal data consent? Consumers’ reluctance to reveal their personal information is primarily triggered by the lack of adequate info, so companies can address that by providing clear and direct information of destination and purpose of data collected.

Online Gambling: Consumer Protection Measures
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After the announcement of WhatsApp on its new terms of use of users’ data, we feel that somehow full transparency of privacy concerns is not always the best strategy to gain credibility.

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