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Understanding consumer privacy: a review and future directions.

Understanding Consumer Privacy: A Review and Future Directions

The evolution of marketing from a production orientation to a market orientation (Kieth 1960; Kotler and Zaltman 1971), as exemplified by the marketing concept (Barksdale and Darden 1971; Houston 1986; McKitterick 1957), has led to a dramatic increase in the need to understand the consumer. While application of this market orientation approach, especially in the forms of direct and relationship marketing, arguably brings multiple benefits to both consumers and firms (Kohli and Jaworski 1990; Narver and Slater 1990), it also requires a large amount of consumer information in order to deliver value (Nowak and Phelps 1997). The widespread adoption of information technology (IT) has allowed firms to meet this need for consumer information by vastly increasing the amount and types of information they collect (McCrohan 1989; Thomas and Maurer 1997). For firms, advances in IT have considerably enhanced the institutionalization and utilization of the market orientation approach by providing the technological infrastructure to capture, analyze, and maintain large quantities of consumer information (Winer 2001). For consumers, though, the collection and analysis of their personal information has led to an increase in privacy concerns (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Phelps, Nowak, and Ferrell 2000).

While most consumers welcome the increased convenience and personalization that these various marketing orientation approaches provide, many are concerned about the collection, use, and protection of their personal information (Phelps et al. 2000; Rust, Kaman, and Peng 2002). Given the sharp increases in unsolicited promotions, incidences of identity theft, and the negligent loss of consumer information by firms, these fears are not altogether unwarranted (Levy and Stone 2005). For many consumers, major privacy concerns fall into three main categories: (1) notification, (2) control, and (3) security. First, many consumers want to be informed about the collection and use of their personal information by firms (Dommeyer and Gross 2003; Milne and Culnan 2004; Nowak and Phelps 1995), Second, consumers want to feel that they have some control over the collection of their personal information and the sharing of this information among firms (Goodwin 1991; Milne and Boza 1999; Phelps et al. 2000). Third, most consumers want some assurance that the personal information they provide to firms, especially online, and the storage of this information is secure (Hoy and Phelps 2003; Jones 1991; Miyazaki and Fernandez 2000). Although multiple legal, commercial, and technological solutions have been proposed to address these concerns (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Goodwin 1991; Phelps et al. 2000), the protection of consumer privacy remains a constant concern for consumers and a formidable challenge for businesses.

In an attempt to understand these issues, consumer privacy research has sought to define the concept of consumer privacy, outline the privacy expectations and strategies of both consumers and businesses, and examine the degree to which firm's are providing adequate consumer privacy protection. While this body of research has provided us with valuable information concerning these issues, there currently does not exist a review that synthesizes and analyzes the current state of consumer privacy research. Given the complexity of the topic and the diversity of issues that have been explored, we feel that a comprehensive review is necessary to refine our understanding of this important topic and to take consumer privacy to a more advanced theoretical level. As a result, the purpose of this article is to examine the general concept of privacy in order to situate and define the domain of consumer privacy, review the literature on consumer privacy in order to determine what we know, and provide directions for future research in order to address gaps in the literature. We begin by examining the general nature of privacy, privacy rights, and privacy regulation. Next, we review the various conceptualizations of consumer privacy. Third, we examine privacy issues from the perspectives of both consumers and firms. Fourth, we propose directions for future research. Because the conceptualization of privacy in general and consumer privacy in particular differs among cultures and nations, this review will focus primarily on issues of privacy in the United States.


The debate on the nature and scope of privacy is vast and includes research in such diverse disciplines as biology, anthropology, and legal philosophy. While it is not our goal to present research on privacy from all the various disciplines in a single article, we feel that a certain amount of background information on privacy is necessary in order to examine and situate of the notion of consumer privacy. This section provides an overview of the general concept of privacy and its relevance to U.S. law and business.

The Nature of Privacy

The relationship between advances in information technology, including the digitizing and dissemination of all forms of information, and the increase in privacy concerns among individuals, organizations, and governments is well documented (e.g., Ashworth and Free 2006; McCrohan 1989; Milne 2000; Peslak 2005; Thomas and Maurer 1997). But while it is tempting to think of privacy as strictly a modern concern brought forth by such things as industrialization, urbanization, and mechanization (Glazer 1998), the desire for privacy can be traced back to primitive (or pre-modern) societies and even to the animal world (Honigmann 1959; Moore 1984; Westin 1967).

Privacy Needs--It has been found that all animals seek different levels of interaction, ranging from seclusion and small group relations to broader social interaction (Allee 1938; Ardrey 1966; Wynne-Edwards 1962). Seclusion is important because it allows animals to regulate resources, propagate the species, and process information about the world around them (Hall 1966). At the same time, social interaction is necessary because it allows animals to learn, grow, and protect themselves (Ardrey 1966; Wynne-Edwards 1962). Because animals need both seclusion and interaction to survive, they constantly seek to establish a balance between seclusion and interaction, or in other words, between privacy and participation (Westin 1967).

This need for both privacy and participation is also evident among humans. Although some anthropologists suggest that privacy did not exist in primitive societies given the structure of these societies (Jones 1914; Lee 1959; Mead 1949), others argue that privacy was maintained in ways that were more psychological rather than physical (Geertz 1973; Murphy 1964). That is, while many individuals in these societies were not able to control access to many physical aspects of their environment, they could restrict and regulate the information about themselves that they shared with others (Jourard 1966; Westin 1967). Through the selective disclosure of information, individuals in primitive societies were able to achieve the seclusion that was needed by all animals, a tactic that holds over even in more developed societies (Simmel 1950).

In addition to the desire for privacy, members of primitive societies also sought to participate with others in the larger group. As Spinoza (1989) argues, humans are social animals that are scarcely able to lead a completely solitary life. While some of the reasons for social interaction are practical, such as satiation of the physical needs for food, shelter, and security (Spinoza 1989), others are less practical, such as curiosity (Berlyne 1960; Siep 1978) and the desire to have fun (Huizinga 1950; Sutton-Smith 1997). In either case, humans often engage in physical contact with others and disclose information about themselves, as well as to seek out information from others, in order to interact socially (Westin 1967).

Because of this need for both seclusion and interaction, privacy is not considered an absolute human condition (Clark 1978; Westin 1967). That is, human nature is such that most individuals do not seek either constant solitude (i.e., total isolation from others) or continuous social interaction (i.e., total immersion with others). Researchers have discovered that psychological abnormalities often develop in those individuals who either completely reject social interaction or who actively seek to avoid solitude (Fromm-Reichmann 1959; Horney 1945). Proper human development requires individuals to constantly seek a balance between privacy and participation (Westin 1967).

At a broader social level, societies also have to address the balance between the need for privacy and participation. All societies require rules and the adherence to them by their members in order to function properly (Moore 1984; Shils 1966). In addition, societies also need to establish mechanisms to detect transgressions of their norms and rules and to punish these behaviors in order to maintain their proper functioning (Westin 1967). These detection mechanisms often take some form of surveillance in which societies monitor their citizens in order to make sure their behavior stays within the bounds of the society's rules (Flaherty 1989; Goffman 1961; Miller 1999). The degree to which societies balance privacy, participation, and surveillance depends on the broader historical culture and traditions from which each society derives (Flaherty 19677; Shils 1966; Westin 1967).

While privacy clearly is not a recent phenomenon, the rise of modern industrial society has had a definite impact on issues of privacy, participation, and surveillance. Both industrialization and urbanization altered peoples' personal and societal relations (Simmel 1950). While these historical factors and the complex societies in which they were embedded provided more opportunities for physical and psychological privacy (e.g., the anonymity of city life), they also required greater individual disclosure and government surveillance in order for these societies to function properly (Honigmann 1959; Merton 1957; Westin 1967). Technological advances, as well as the constant need for information from individuals to participate in modern societies (especially capitalistic and democratic societies), have led to practices in which societal surveillance (by both public and private entities) can overwhelm the delicate balance of privacy and participation necessary for proper individual development (Miller 1999).

Privacy States and Functions--Westin (1967) argues that privacy consists of four basic states: solitude, intimacy, anonymity, and reserve. Solitude is the condition of being physically separated from others and free from observation. Intimacy is the condition of existing as a small unit (e.g., the family) while maintaining seclusion from others outside the unit. Anonymity is the condition of being in public while still being free from identification and surveillance. Reserve is the condition in which a person has created psychological barriers to protect him/herself from unwanted intrusions. In addition, Westin (1967) describes four functions of privacy: personal autonomy, emotional release, self-evaluation, and limited/protected communication. First, privacy helps to secure personal autonomy by allowing individuals to take control of and responsibility for their lives (Shils 1959). Second, privacy provides the individual with a space for emotional release from the pressures of performing daily roles and conforming to social norms (Goffman 1959). Third, privacy gives individuals time to integrate their life experiences and craft their identities through self-evaluation (Jourard 1966). Fourth, privacy allows limited communications in which people can set boundaries in interpersonal situations and protected communication in which the person can share confidences and establish trust (Simmel 1950).

Privacy Rights--Although most Americans believe that they have a right to privacy, the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly grant this right or its protection. In spite of this, the U.S. Supreme Court has argued that the right to privacy is implicit in the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments (DeCew 1997; Hosch 1983; McWhirter and Bible 1992). The First Amendment's acknowledgement of the rights of religious practice, free speech, and assembly has been interpreted as providing protection of individual privacy by limiting government intrusion (Glenn 2003). The Fourth Amendment's protection against search and seizures was expanded to include an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy and protection from surveillance without a warrant (Smith 1989). The U.S. Supreme Court has argued that one of the purposes of the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination is to protect individual disclosure of private information, with the caveat that this protection only applies when there is compulsion, communication, and incrimination (Rich 1987). The Ninth Amendment's claim that there are other rights that citizens retain that are not explicitly stated in the Constitution has been used to argue for the existence of the right to privacy (Glenn 2003; Tuerkheimer 1993). Lastly, the Fourteenth Amendment's requirements that no law or state will abridge an individual's privileges or immunities, deny any person his/her rights without due process, or deny any citizen equal protection under the law have been interpreted as implying the protection of individual privacy (McWhirter and Bible 1992).

It is important to note that although these various Amendments can be interpreted as providing privacy protection (irrespective of whether privacy is considered as a right or a privilege) (Phelps et al. 2000), the U.S. Supreme Court has argued that not every privacy infringement violates a person's constitutional rights (McCrohan 1989). In fact, it is accepted that explicitly granted constitutional rights supersede any implicit rights, such as the right to privacy (Clark 1978; Found 1961). In addition, the Constitution only protects individuals from the violation of their rights by federal and state governments; violations of rights by private parties must be addressed by federal and state laws (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1997). This is especially important for assessing any obligations that firms may feel towards protecting consumer privacy.

One of the primary reasons for recognizing the implicit right (or privilege) to privacy is that individual free expression is necessary for the proper functioning of democratic societies (Gavison 1980; Jones 1991; Rachels 1975; Westin 1967). This is evident in the distinction between dictatorships (or totalitarian regimes) and democracies. Dictatorships are based on rule by an individual or select few, extensive surveillance and intrusion, and compelled disclosure (Westin 1967). Individual privacy is sacrificed in the name of protecting and sustaining the particular ideology of the State. Democracies, such as the U.S., are based on popular consent, limited government surveillance and intrusion, and private property (Peslak 2005). In order for a democratic society to reflect the will of the people and not the ideology of the State, citizens must be allowed freedom to participate in organizations (including privacy of membership), freedom of political choice (including secret ballots), and freedom from coercion by the State (including limited surveillance and intrusion) (Westin 1967). All of these requirements, as well as the principles of democracy, are undermined by denying individuals the right to privacy and the ability to control information about themselves and their affiliations.

Definitions of Privacy

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged an implicit right to privacy, it has not provided a formal definition of privacy. One of the earliest and most recognized definitions of privacy was crafted by Samuel Warren and Justice Brandeis for an article in the Harvard Law Review. As if written today, the legal scholars argue,
   Recent inventions and business methods call attention to the next
   step which must be taken for the protection of the person, and for
   securing to the individual what Judge Cooley calls the right 'to be
   let alone' ... [T]he question whether our law will recognize and
   protect the right to privacy in this and in other respects must
   soon come before our courts for consideration. Of the
   desirability--indeed the necessity--of some such protection there
   can, it is believed, be no doubt (Warren and Brandeis 1890,

Warren and Brandeis (1890) argued that changes in society and business necessitated modifications in the basic tort protection of person and property to include the recognition of new rights--namely the right to privacy. A key aspect of their argument was that existing tort law was unable to protect individuals' intangible rights or property, what they called the protection of private facts, from the increasing use of new technologies. This is apparent in the case of Olmstead v. U.S. (1928), one of the first wiretapping cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that wiretapping was legal because it did not involve physical entry or tangible property. This ruling was eventually overturned by the case of Katz v. U.S. (1967), which finally recognized the negative impact of technology on individuals' privacy beyond its physical intrusion. In spite of this recognition of the right to privacy and the acknowledgement by the courts of nonphysical injuries, many critics argued that this early definition of privacy was too vague to adequately protect individual privacy rights (Bloustein 1968; Dickler 1936; Nizer 1941).

In an attempt to better address infringements on individual privacy, Prosser (1960) argued that privacy was not a unitary concept, but encompassed four distinct legal torts: 1) intrusion (i.e., invading a person's solitude or seclusion), 2) appropriation (i.e., using a person's identity or image without permission), 3) disclosure (i.e., making public embarrassing private facts about a person), and 4) false light (i. e., portraying an individual in a way that inaccurately and negatively represents the person). This framework, while extending the earlier conception of privacy, restricts privacy tort violations to individual-level information (versus group-level or aggregated data such as census data, though census data based on residential areas with few homes are not reported in depth because one might infer individual information), to information that is deemed private, and to the public dissemination of this private information (Nowak and Phelps 1997; Zimmerman 1983). This multidimensional definition was meant to clarify the right to privacy and provide for specific causes of action that could be tried in a court of law. While Prosser's framework has been accepted by most U.S. courts and is the basis of most common law conceptions of privacy (McWhirter and Bible 1992), many critics argue that it does not go far enough in addressing all violations of a personal privacy. In fact, some argue that it favors organizations and businesses and unduly influences their conceptions of privacy (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1997). For example, the "false light" tort does not apply to the transmission of factual consumer information from one firm to another because the data is not false and has not been made public (Graham 1987) (also see Shibley v. Time, Inc. 1974). Likewise, the "intrusion" tort does not apply to situations where the consumer voluntarily provides a firm with personal information and the firm then transfers this information to a third party for purposes unrelated to the intent of the original disclosure (McWhirter and Bible 1992) (also see Dwyer v. American Express Company 1995). As a result, the collection and dissemination of consumer information by firms rarely violates these more specific formulations of the right to privacy (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1997; Phelps et al. 2000).

Due to both the limitations and ubiquity of Prosser's conception of privacy, some legal scholars have argued that privacy should not be considered as a multidimensional concept, but as a unitary concept in order to increase its applicability across a broader range of privacy issues (Benn 1971; Bloustein 1964; Gavison 1980; Graham 1987). These scholars argue that privacy should not be categorized by different interests, but should be based on the more general idea of protecting human dignity (Bloustein 1964; Gavison 1980). This broader conceptualization of privacy is based on peoples' control over their autonomy and accessibility. These scholars argue that this unitary concept of privacy based on control provides a wider base of protection for a broader range of privacy violations.

In line with the unitary conception of the right to privacy, various definitions of privacy have emerged. For instance, privacy has been defined as the "claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves, when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others" (Westin 1967, pp. 6-7). This definition specifically focuses on the ability of individuals to control access to and dissemination of their personal information. This focus on information control is also present in popular definitions of privacy provided by Jourard (1966), Fried (1968), and Parker (1974). Other definitions of privacy focus on the social aspects of control and access (Altman 1975). For instance, Van Deg Haag (1971, p.149) argues that "privacy is the exclusive access of a person to a realm of his own. The right to privacy entitles one to exclude others from (a) watching, (b), utilizing, and (c) invading his private realm" (Introna and Pouloudi 1999). The social component is also echoed in definitions by Gross (1967), who focuses on the right to keep personal relationships private; Posner (1981), who focuses on privacy as freedom from unwanted intrusion by others (similar to Warren and Brandeis); and Johnson (1989), who focuses on privacy as the ability to immune oneself from the judgments of others.

In sum, privacy has been defined in many different ways. For some it is a multidimensional concept; for others, it is a unitary concept. In fact, what constitutes privacy is still a contentious issue that is debated among government officials, policy makers, private organizations, and individual citizens. This is evident in comments made at a 2007 intelligence conference by Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence in the U.S., who argued that the focus of the definition of privacy needs to change from issues of anonymity to issues of security. In another statement that shows the relationship between issues of privacy and surveillance, Kerr argues that it should be the government and businesses that monitor and safeguard people's private information (AP 2007). In spite of the persistent ambiguity of the concept of privacy, the U.S. government has taken some steps to address and regulate privacy protection.

Government Regulation of Privacy

Although Prosser's multidimensional framework still holds sway over most U.S. courts, the more unitary definitions of privacy and the limited ability of the common law to protect individuals' privacy have not gone unnoticed by U.S. law makers. One of the first laws to address individual privacy, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (1), was enacted to protect consumers' right to privacy in the collection of personal information by credit, personnel, and insurance agencies. Personal information refers to a consumer's financial information, reputation, personal characteristics, and mode of living. According to the FCRA (1970), "consumer reporting agencies [are required to] adopt reasonable procedures for meeting the needs of commerce for consumer credit, personnel, insurance, and other information in a manner which is fair and equitable to the consumer, with regard to the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of such information in accordance with the requirements of this title." (2) Congress realized that in order to function effectively in a capitalist society, consumers are required to provide large amounts of personal information to firms (FCRA 1970). Congress also felt that this almost mandatory disclosure of information required laws that would protect consumers' most vital information, but which would also give firms the flexibility to conduct business in an effective and efficient manner. This was one of the first attempts by the U.S. government to grapple with the issue of privacy rights through the legislative process.

In 1973, an advisory committee to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare presented its findings of a study on the increased use of automated personal data systems for the collection, storage, and use of personal information in both the public and private sectors. The committee was asked to examine the harmful consequences of these new technologies and the safeguards that might be needed to protect individuals and their personal information. Two of the major findings of the committee were that these data systems were having a negative impact on consumers relative to firms and that consumers' control over their personal information was steadily diminishing. The committee linked this lack of control directly to consumers' right to privacy and the need for privacy protection. They found that "under current law, a person's privacy is poorly protected against arbitrary or abusive record-keeping practices." (3) In order to provide a set of minimum standards for data management practices, the committee argued that Congress should enact a Federal Code of Fair Information Practices. These practices include the prohibition against secret data files, notice to the individual, consent for secondary use of personal information, access to personal information, and security of information (Jones 1991). Any violations of the practices were to be subject to both criminal penalties and civil remedies.

While the Fair Information Practices (FIPs) were not enacted into law, they have become the benchmark for privacy protection and have influenced subsequent laws and regulation. In 1974, Congress passed the Privacy Act, (4) which regulates the collection, storage, and use of an individual's personally identifiable information by government agencies. This information includes, but is not limited to, education, financial, medical, criminal, and employment information that can be directly linked to an individual. The Privacy Act loosely follows the FIN by addressing the issues of relevance, reliability, misuse, and security of personal information. The FIPs have also influenced other federal laws including the Right to Financial Privacy Act (1978), the Cable Communications Policy Act (1984), the Computer Security Act (1987), the Video Privacy Protection Act (1988), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (1991), the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (1994), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (1996), the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (1998), and the Financial Modernization Services Act (1999), as well as many state and local laws (Smith 2002).

Although the 1973 advisory committee argued that it was not necessary at that time to appoint a government agency to oversee the privacy protection of individuals' personally identifiable information, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has since taken on this role. The FTC was established in 1914 primarily to promote consumer protection and competitive markets. Of its three main bureaus, the Bureau of Consumer Protection has as its mission the protection of consumers against unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent business practices. Of primary concern to this bureau is the protection of consumer privacy. It has direct charge over monitoring and enforcing many of the privacy laws and regulations mentioned above, as well as promoting the self-regulation of privacy in those industries in which privacy laws have not been enacted. In the next section of the article, we examine specifically how consumer privacy has been conceptualized in the extant literature and summarize the various consumer privacy issues that have been explored.


The following section reviews the current state of consumer privacy research and the dominant themes in the consumer privacy literature. The review is based on articles published from 1989 to 2007 in a variety of academic business journals in marketing, management, business ethics, and information sciences. A summary of the articles' foci, key concepts/issues, and primary findings is provided in Table 1. The review is divided into three main areas: 1) conceptualization of consumer privacy, 2) consumer-related privacy issues, and 3) firm-related privacy issues. The first section examines the definition of consumer privacy, consumer privacy rights, and consumer privacy and ethics. The second section explores issues related to the antecedents of consumer privacy concerns, consumer management of privacy concerns, and the consequences of consumer privacy concerns. The third section explores issues related to firm compliance with the FlPs, legal and business challenges concerning consumer privacy, and managing and communicating privacy protection.

Conceptualizations of Consumer Privacy

As with the general notion of privacy, consumer privacy is an abstract concept that encompasses many different aspects and concerns. However, despite the persistent ambiguity and evolution of the notion of consumer privacy in the literature, it still remains an important issue and one that must be understood in order to manage the relationship between consumers and firms effectively.

Definition of Consumer Privacy--Initial attempts to define consumer privacy build upon the early definition of privacy as the right to be left alone and the later conceptualizations of privacy as control over social encounters and personal information. For instance, Goodwin (1991) defines consumer privacy as "the consumer's ability to control (a) presence of other people in the environment during a market transaction or consumption behavior and (b) dissemination of information related to or provided during such transactions or behaviors to those who were not present" (p.152). The first part of the definition focuses on the social aspects of consumer privacy and deals with control over the presence of others in the consumer's environment. Specifically, this part of the definition pertains primarily to intrusions by marketers (via telephone, mail, person, etc.) into the consumer's environment, though it could include the presence of other consumers in the market environment (Milne and Gordon 1993).

The second part of the definition focuses on the information aspects of consumer privacy and deals with consumer control over the information they provide to firms (Jones 1991). Specifically, this part of the definition pertains to marketers' use of consumer information, especially uses that go beyond the intent of the original disclosure.

Privacy based on these two types of control (i.e., social control and information control) give rise to four privacy states: 1) total control, 2) environmental control, 3) disclosure control, and 4) no control (Goodwin 1991). Total control represents situations in which consumers maintain control over both the presence of others in the environment and use of their personal information. This situation represents the highest degree of privacy and requires the least amount of privacy protection (Goodwin 1991). Environmental control represents situations in which consumers control the presence of others in the environment, but do not maintain control over the use of their personal information. Disclosure control represents situations in which consumers maintain control over the use of their personal information, but not the presence of others in the environment. Both of these conditions represent moderate amounts of privacy and require some privacy protection (Goodwin 1991). No control represents situations in which consumers control neither the presence of others in their environment nor the use of their personal information. This represents the lowest degree of privacy and requires the most amount of privacy protection (Goodwin 1991).

This early definition of consumer privacy based primarily on control has been expanded to include consumer knowledge as a second primary dimension (Culpan 1995: Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1997). Consumer knowledge refers to the degree to which consumers are informed about, as well as understand, the information practices of firms in which they interact and their privacy rights in regards to these interactions (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993). Consumer knowledge, thus, incorporates a number of issues in the realm of consumer privacy. First, do consumers understand what information is collected, how it is collected, and why it is collected? Second, do consumers understand how the information will be used, especially beyond its original use (i.e., the secondary use of information)? Third, do consumers understand their rights (i.e., the actions they can and cannot take) in regards to the collection and use of their information? Consumer privacy is considered high when the answers are affirmative to all of these questions and low when they are negative (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1997).

Consumer Privacy Rights--As with both the general nature of privacy and perceived privacy rights, consumer privacy is typically not considered an absolute right (Clark 1978; Friedrich 1971; Gavison 1980; Simitis 1987). There are three main arguments as to why consumer privacy is not an absolute right. First, consumers' right to privacy often conflicts with other rights and concerns (Borna and Avila 1999; Milne and Gordon 1993). Second, what constitutes consumer privacy is affected by cultural, situational, and individual factors (Milberg, Smith, and Burke 2000; Smith 2001). Third, consumers and firms maintain competing views over information ownership (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1992).

In terms of the first argument of competing rights, Goodwin (1991) identifies four sources of conflict with consumer privacy rights: 1) conflicts between consumer privacy and desired service levels, 2) conflicts between consumer privacy and other consumer and marketer rights, 3) conflicts between the consumer privacy and the cost of privacy protection, and 4) conflicts between consumer privacy and other societal values. First, it has been found that consumers are often willing to sacrifice their privacy in order to receive higher levels of service, though they do try to minimize the amount information they provide (Katz and Tassone 1990; Posch 1988; Stone and Stone 1990). Second, it has been found that the desire for consumer privacy often conflicts with consumers' rights to be informed and freedom of choice, as well as with marketers' rights to be left alone and free speech (Clark 1978; Lally 1996; Rasor 1986). Third, it has been found that while consumers demand higher levels of privacy protection, they are unwilling to pay for this protection (Jones 1991; Milne and Gordon 1993). Fourth, societies require a certain amount of surveillance in order to maintain their proper functioning (Flaherty 1989; Westin 1967). As such, consumer privacy will likely be sacrificed if it is perceived to interfere with the greater social good, such as threats to safety, health, and the economy (Etzioni 1999; McWhirter and Bible 1992; Moore 1984). This is evident in the reporting of consumers who make unusually large purchases of fertilizer chemicals that could be used to make explosive devices such as the one use in the Oklahoma City bombing.

The second reason why consumer privacy is not considered an absolute right is that it is often affected by cultural, social, and individual factors (Johnson 1989; Milberg et al. 2000). The culture of a particular country or society broadly influences what individuals consider private (Altman 1977; Schein 1977; Smith 2001). Privacy interests often vary in terms of the degree of autonomy, confidentiality, intimacy, accessibility, and anonymity sought by individuals, organizations, and even governments (Flaherty 1989). What a particular country or society emphasizes as distinctly private will depend on its history, economy, and social structures (Milberg et al. 2000; Smith 1994; Vogel 1992). This is evident in the large differences in the type and degree of consumer privacy protection required by the U.S. Government and the Europian Union (Pincus and Rogers 1997; Sarathy and Robertson 2003; Scheibal and Gladstode 2000).

The third reason why consumer privacy is not considered an absolute right is that there are often competing claims by consumers and marketers concerning information ownership (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Milne and Gordon 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1992). As we saw in the previous section, issues of consumer privacy often focus on control over personal information. At the heart of this issue of control is the notion of information rights. Unfortunately, consumers and marketers often disagree over who maintains the rights to the information provided in an exchange (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993). Most consumers perceive that the information they provide in a commercial transaction belongs to them, whereas marketers and firms perceive that the information, once given, belongs to the organization (Cespedes and Smith 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1992). These competing claims make it difficult to manage the conflicting rights to privacy claimed by both consumers and firms. For instance, one researcher analyzed whether bankrupt Internet companies can sell private consumer information to pay off their debt and found an absence of specific laws prohibiting such a sale (Carroll 2002). In this case, the commercial interests of creditors clashed with the privacy concerns of consumers, bringing to light the question of information ownership and the difficulty of managing privacy rights.

The Ethics of Consumer Privacy--Because privacy has a strong normative component to it, it is not surprising that researchers have also examined the ethical dimensions of consumer privacy (Ashworth and Free 2006; Caudill and Murphy 2000; Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993). Consumer privacy has been examined in the literature from a number of ethical perspectives including utilitarianism, egoism, relativism, justice, duty, virtue, and social contract theory. In this section, we briefly summarize the findings of the ethical studies of consumer privacy.

Teleological and deontological ethical theories (including utilitarianism, ethical egoism, and ethical formalism) have been used to explain the conflicts that arise between consumers and firms in the collection and use of transactional data (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993). Firms often justify their use of consumer information on utilitarian grounds by arguing that the collection and analysis of this information will provide greater benefits to consumers as a whole, such as better targeting, higher quality service, and lower prices (Milne and Gordon 1993). From an ethical perspective, there are two problems with this argument. First, firms often benefit more than consumers from the use of this information, as the 1973 supervisory committee found (see above), which may cause firms to ignore or incorrectly estimate the utility of their actions in order to fulfill their egoistic needs. Second, the fact that consumers are often unknowledgeable of a firm's information practices denies them their deontological rights of respect and autonomy (Dommeyer and Gross 2003; Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Milne and Rohm 2000).

It has been argued that these problems that arise in the collection and use of consumer information cannot be reconciled simply by a utilitarian justification, but require the application of a deontological ethical theory such as Kant's categorical imperative, which considers an act to be moral if it can be universalized to all people and situations (Kant 1959). Under this approach, both consumers and firms would have to accept the rights and protections that they demand of the other party, with the implication that this can only take place under the condition where there is control and knowledge by both parties (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Nowak and Phelps 1997). Another study, though, has argued that firms' can justify electronic monitoring of consumers' online behavior on both utilitarian and deontological grounds (Charters 2002). As long as the firm focuses on the utilitarian goal of minimizing potential consumer harm and the deontological goal of respecting individual autonomy by providing consumers with enough information to make their own decisions, the firm is behaving ethically in terms of consumers' right to privacy (Charters 2002). For example, while some scholars argue that firms need to offer consumers both a detailed privacy statement and full control over their personal information for the firms' privacy practices to be ethical, others argue that a detailed privacy statement is all that is ethically required by firms for consumers to make an informed choice. Either way, for consumer privacy practices to be considered ethical, there needs to be both knowledge and control on the part of consumers regarding the collection and use of their personal information, though there is clearly still some debate concerning the proper amount of knowledge and control that firms need to provide.

Social contract theory, or the idea that individuals enter into reciprocal relationships based on a form of equitable exchange (Dunfee, Smith, and Ross 1999), has also been applied to consumer privacy in order to explain the perceived trade-offs that are made between consumers and firms in the exchange of consumer information (Culnan 1995; Milne and Gordon 1993). It has been argued that when consumers provide firms with personal information in order to receive some form of benefit, they enter into an implied social contract with the firm (Milne and Cordon 1993). The result of this social contract is that consumers are often willing to sacrifice some of their privacy in exchange for something of value, subject to a "privacy calculus" in which they perform a personal cost/benefit analysis (Cespedes and Smith 1993; Culnan and Armstrong 1999; Laufer and Wolfe 1977). These social contracts, however, are only ethical when consumers understand the terms and conditions underlying these social contracts, as well as the actual costs and benefits that can accrue from the exchange relationship (Culnan 1995; Milne and Gordon 1993). This can only be achieved when there is consumer knowledge and control over the exchange of their personal information.

Justice theory has been applied to consumer privacy in order to explain consumers' perceptions of ethical fairness in the exchange relationship (Ashworth and Free 2006; Culnan and Armstrong 1999; Culnan and Bies 2003; Sarathy and Robertson 2003). Three types of justice that have been examined in the consumer privacy literature include distributive justice (i.e., the evaluation of outcomes or results), procedural justice (i.e., the evaluation of the processes and activities that lead to the outcomes), and interactional justice (i.e., the evaluation of the communication process) (Culnan and Bies 2003; Sarathy and Robertson 2003). In terms of distributive justice, it has been argued that consumers must feel that the value they receive from a firm is commensurate with the personal information they provide in order for the exchange to be considered ethical (Ashworth and Free 2006). This is similar to equity theory in which fairness is based on a comparison of inputs and outputs in the exchange relationship (Adams 1965). It has been suggested that factors such as information sensitivity, data usage, and compensation impact perceptions of distributive justice because they influence consumers' evaluation of both the inputs and outputs of the exchange relationship (Ashworth and Free 2006). For example, if consumers consider the information that they provide to firms as very sensitive, then they must feel that the inputs the firm provides (e.g., data security) and the outputs they receive (e.g., financing) are worth the risk for this to be an ethical exchange.

In terms of procedural justice, it has been argued that consumers are usually willing to disclose personal information and allow this information to be used by a firm when they perceive fair information practices in place to protect their privacy (Culnan and Armstrong 1999). It has also been suggested that awareness is the primary factor that affects perceptions of procedural justice because it directly impacts consumers' evaluations of the information practices of a firm and their ability to exercise control over the exchange relationship (Ashworth and Free 2006). That is, consumers must not only be aware of the information practices of a firm, but they must be provided with enough information to make a reasonable assessment of these practices and an informed choice concerning their personal information for there to be procedural justice. In addition, firms cannot merely enumerate any type of information practices in their privacy policies for there to be procedural justice, but must make sure that the information practices fairly balance the concerns of the firm with the concerns of the consumer (Culnan and Armstrong 1999).

Lastly, in terms of interactional justice, research has found that firms can build trust, and thus mitigate privacy fears, by communicating the fairness of their privacy practices to their customers (Culnan and Armstrong 1999). One way for firms to do this is try to understand the normative expectations of their customers and communicate their duties in regards to these expectations to their customers (Ashworth and Free 2006; Caudill and Murphy 2000). For example, firms should not simply provide a laundry list of information practices in their privacy policies, but should try to address consumers' privacy concerns by explaining the consumers' rights and the firms' obligations. By doing this, firms can move beyond simply establishing a contractual relationship and develop an ethical bond with their consumers that permeates the whole exchange relationship (Caudhill and Murphy 2000). While adherence to any or all of these three forms of justice can mitigate consumers' privacy concerns, it is suggested that violations of any of them will negatively impact consumers' ethical perceptions of the firm (Culnan and Bies 2003).

Consumer-Related Privacy Issues

The increased focus on the consumer and the demand for personal information in almost every business transaction has had a significant impact on consumers' sense of anxiety regarding their personal privacy. To grasp the breadth of consumers' privacy concerns, one needs to examine both the causes and the effects of these concerns, as well as the steps that consumers are taking to manage their privacy. In this section, we review the consumer privacy literature in terms of the antecedents, management, and consequences of consumer privacy concerns.

Consumer Privacy Concerns and their Antecedents--Scholars have identified five major influences on consumers' privacy concerns, viz. consumer awareness, information usage, information sensitivity, familiarity with the firm, and compensation (Phelps et al. 2000; Sheehan and Hoy 2000). In terms of consumer awareness, research suggests that consumers' privacy concerns are triggered when consumers become aware that firms have collected and/or used their personal information without their permission (Cespedes and Smith 1993). One of the most common ways that consumers become aware of these practices is when they receive unsolicited promotions related to recent transactions. Many firms are now offering opt-in or opt-out mechanisms that inform consumers of the firm's information practices and provide them with a choice of whether or not to participate (Milne and Rohm 2000). This is important because it has been found that consumers tend to be less concerned about their privacy when firms seek permission to collect and use their information (Nowak and Phelps 1995).

In terms of information usage, it has been found that consumers become concerned about their privacy when they do not know how their information is being used (Sheehan and Hoy 2000). Of primary concern to consumers is the secondary use of their information (Nowak and Phelps 1995). This is when consumer information obtained in the original transaction is used for purposes unrelated to the transaction or sold to other firms. Consumers often view this secondary use of their information, especially when they are not made aware of these practices, as a violation of their privacy (Cespedes and Smith 1993; Phelps et al. 2000; Wang and Petrison 1993). In addition, the amount of information control desired by consumers also has a bearing on the degree of privacy concern with regards to information usage (Campbell 1997; Culnan and Armstrong 1999). In the direct marketing context, it has been found that the greater the desire on the part of consumers for control over their personal information, the stronger is their concern to maintain their privacy rights (Phelps et al. 2001).

In terms of information sensitivity, it has been found that how sensitive the person considers the information has a impact on their privacy concerns (Sheehan and Hoy 2000). Information sensitivity refers to the degree to which individuals feel that their personal information, if released or shared with others, can harm them (Gandy 1993). The more sensitive the information, the more concerned the person will be about their privacy (Phelps et al. 2000). In general, not all information is regarded as the same. Consumers seem less concerned about the collection and usage of information related to demographic characteristics, purchase behavior, and lifestyle habits and more concerned about the collection and usage of financial data, medical records, and personal identifiers (e.g., social security numbers) (Phelps et al 2000; Sheehan and Hoy 2000; Vidmar and Flaherty 1985). In addition, information sensitivity often differs by individual and situation (Milne 1997; Nowak and Phelps 1992).

In terms of familiarity with the firm, research suggests that consumers' overall attitude towards a firm has a direct impact on their privacy concerns. In one study, it was found that as consumers' positive attitudes towards a firm's direct marketing practices increased, the degree of privacy concerns decreased (Phelps, D' Souza, and Nowak 2001). In another study of online privacy concerns, it was found that the nature of the relationship (i. e., short-term vs. long-term) between the customer and firm directly influences what types of personal information were provided and the degree of control over the information sought by the consumer (Sheehan and Hoy 2000). A key aspect of familiarity with the firm is trust (Vidmar and Flaherty 1985). It has been found that consumers who trust the firm are less concerned about their privacy and more willing to provide personal information (Schoenbachler and Gordon 2002). Some of the ways for firms to signal trustworthiness include security disclosures, privacy disclosures, seals of approval, and awards from neutral sources (Wang, Beatty, and Foxx 2004).

In terms of compensation, it has been suggested that compensating consumers for sharing their personal information can have an impact on their privacy concerns (Goodwin 1991; Milne and Gordon 1993; Sheehan and Hoy 2000). At the heart of most privacy concerns is the trade-off between the benefits received and the costs incurred from disclosure of one's personal information (Laufer and Wolfe 1977; Westin 1967). Consumers place a value on their personal information and will only disclose this information if they feel that the benefit they receive outweighs costs of disclosure (Ashworth and Free 2006; Dunfee et al. 1999). For instance, research in the direct mail and online contexts suggest that consumers perform a cost/benefit analysis of all the factors related to any particular direct mail situation in order to assess privacy concerns (Caudhill and Murphy 2000; Goodwin 1991; Russell 1989). One way for firms to affect this equation is to provide benefits, in this case some form of compensation, specifically for the disclosure of information. In a conjoint study of the trade-offs among all the attributes associated with direct mail (i.e., volume, targeting, compensation, and permission), it was found that the compensation factor (i.e., consumers getting paid through coupons, rebates, discounts etc.) was the most important determinant of satisfaction (Milne and Gordon 1993).

In addition to the five general factors presented above, research has also examined how various demographic factors affect consumers' privacy concerns (Culnan 1995; Dommeyer and Gross 2003; Sheehan 1999). An examination of gender differences in attitudes and behaviors toward online privacy found that women generally are more concerned than men about the impact of information collection on their privacy (Sheehan 1999). Ironically, in terms of more specific online privacy behaviors, the same study found that women tend to read more unsolicited email than men, that women notify their Internet Service Provider (ISP) about unsolicited email less often than men, and that women register on websites more often than men, though it was found that women provide incomplete information more often than men (Sheehan 1999). Another study found that men, though, are more likely to provide false information online than women (Chen and Rea 2004). In addition, it was found that men tend to react more aggressively to perceived privacy violations than women and adopt a wider range of behaviors (such as complaining) when addressing privacy concerns (Sheehan 1999).

In another study that examined both gender and age on consumers' privacy concern, it was found that men are more likely to be aware of strategies to protect personal information than women, and that younger individuals are more aware of these strategies than older individuals (Dommeyer and Gross 2003). Thus, although women seem to be more concerned about the collection and use of their information than men, men appear to be more aware of strategies to protect their privacy, which may account for the lower concern. In addition to gender, it was found that younger individuals were more likely to employ strategies to protect their privacy than older individuals (Dommeyer and Gross). In a another study of consumer awareness of privacy protection procedures, it was found that those consumers who were most likely to be unaware of these procedures were more likely to be young, poor, less educated, and African-American (Culnan 1995). Lastly, it was found that people who had attended a vocational school or had some college were the most concerned about how companies used their personal information (51%), followed by high school graduates (46%) and then college graduates (36%) (Phelps et al. 2000).

Consumer Management of Privacy Concerns--The lack of comprehensive privacy regulation in the U.S. means that in most situations, consumers who have privacy concerns must take steps to manage their own privacy protection. Some consumer privacy protection strategies include reading privacy notices, providing incomplete or no information to firms (e.g., not filling out product registrations and/or establishing permanent online accounts), engaging in name removal (e.g., choosing opt-out arrangements), and exercising one's legal rights (Milne and Culnan 2004; Milne and Rohm 2000). Unfortunately, even when consumers take precautions to protect their privacy, once their information has been collected and disseminated, there is often little they can do to protect their personal information.

For consumers, self-management of privacy concerns begins with awareness and knowledge of marketing practices and privacy protection strategies (Culnan 1995; Nowak and Phelps 1992). Studies have noted that overall consumer knowledge of direct marketing practices and regulations, though, is very limited (Dommeyer and Gross 2003). In a national survey of over 1500 consumers who use direct mail to make purchases, Milne and Rohm (2000) found that only 34% of respondents could be classified as existing in a "privacy state" (defined as the condition in which the consumer is aware of a firm's information practices and privacy protection mechanisms). In a study of consumer awareness of name removal procedures, it was found that 52% of the public were not aware of a firm's name removal procedures (Culnan 1995). These results suggest that the limited knowledge of firms' information practices, coupled with the lack of comprehensive government regulation of consumer privacy, leaves consumers in a very vulnerable position with regards to the protection of their privacy by firms. As a result, it is up to the consumer to manage their own privacy protection.

Reading the contents of privacy notices is one way that consumers can increase their knowledge and manage their privacy concerns. Privacy notices can enhance the sense of control consumers feel they have and can help them decide whether or not to share personal information (Wang et al. 2004). One study on online privacy notices found that three factors that positively impact the tendency to read online privacy notices include consumer's concern for privacy, positive perceptions about notice comprehension, and higher levels of trust in the notice (Milne and Culnan 2004). In spite of this, a large majority of individuals do not look for or read privacy policies (Milne, Rohm, and Bahl 2004). Instead, many consumers rely on other heuristics to decipher privacy protection, such as third party privacy seals, brand reputation, or prior experience with the firm (Bowie and Jama12006). Interestingly, use of such alternative heuristics is found to be negatively associated with reading of privacy notices (Milne and Culnan 2004).

With the rise of identity theft, numerous strategies have been proposed to help consumers protect their privacy. Offline strategies include understanding information practices, monitoring your credit, protecting your mail, minimizing the amount of information you disclose, and protecting your social security number (FTC 2001). In a study of theft prevention practices by both a college student and non-student sample, it was found that both groups practice many of these offline strategies, but that few individuals in either group order yearly credit reports, ask merchants how they are going to use their personal information before they reveal it, or pick up new checks from the bank (Milne 2003). Other strategies that consumers can employ to protect their privacy online include utilizing secure websites, opting-out of third party information sharing, creating separate email accounts, encrypting email, and using anonymous browsing software (Center for Democracy and Technology 2003). In a study of online identity theft protection behavior, it was found that a majority of respondents utilized secure online forms, opt-out mechanisms, and separate personal email accounts, while less than a third cleared their computer's memory, encrypted their emails, or used anonymous Internet browsing software (Milne et al. 2004). In another study, it was found that there was a strong positive relationship between privacy concerns and online privacy protection behavior (Sheehan and Hoy 1999). As privacy concerns increased, consumers were more likely to provide incomplete information to websites, to complain to their ISP about unsolicited e-mail, request removal from mailing lists, and "flame" (i.e., sending a highly negative message) those entities sending unsolicited e-mail (Sheehan and Hoy 1999).

In addition, studies utilizing poststructuralist theory offer another perspective on how consumers manage their privacy (Zwick and Dholakia 2004). In order to protect their identities and personal information, consumers may or may not choose to represent themselves accurately to firms. Research has identified four approaches that consumers take to manage their online identities: 1) identifiability (i.e., disclosure of all personal information with high accuracy), 2) confidentiality (i.e., disclosure of highly accurate but restricted information), 3) secrecy (i.e., nondisclosure of information), and 4) anonymity/pseudonymity (i.e., disclosure of information that is inaccurate) (Zwick and Dholakia 2004). It is argued that the digital representation of the consumer (i.e., the identity that exists as bits of information about the consumer in firm's databases) constitutes the totality of a consumer's identity for a firm. In effect, firms market their products and services to these digital representations and not to the physical reality of consumers. Therefore, for consumers the highest state of self-determination and control comes when firms, especially online firms like, provide full access to the content of their databases to consumers so they can craft their digital identity (Zwick and Dholakia 2004).

Consumer Privacy Concerns and their Consequences--If consumers' privacy concerns are not mitigated through self-management strategies or firm initiatives, they can have potentially negative consequences on consumers' attitudes and behaviors (Milne and Boza 1999; Phelps et al. 2001; Sheehan and Hoy 1999). In fact, the relationship between these negative consequences is often complex. For instance, in a study of direct marketing practices, it was found that consumers' negative attitudes towards a firm's information practices directly affected their trust in the firm and their purchase behaviors (Milne and Boza 1999). In another study of 477 U.S. households, researchers found that privacy concerns had a significant impact on online purchase intent, with the greatest negative impact being through its relationship with trust (Eastlick, Lotz, and Warrington 2006). Additionally, a national survey of 556 consumers found a significant negative relationship between privacy concerns and purchase behaviors (Phelps et al. 2001). Consumers who were highly concerned about their privacy demonstrated lower recency, frequency, and monetary value of catalog purchases (Phelps et al. 2001). Firms can mitigate these negative effects by signaling and building trust with the consumer, especially by exhibiting procedural justice through the use of fair information practices and privacy protection (Culnan and Armstrong 1999).

Not only do consumers' privacy concerns have a negative effect on purchase intentions and behaviors, but they can also have a devastating effect on consumers' willingness to provide information (Schoenbachler and Gordon 2002; Sheehan and Hoy 1999; Wang et al. 2004). This is extremely important because it cuts at the very heart of the market orientation approach that underlies most business practices today (Dolnicar and Jordaan 2007). In a national study of online users, it was found that as consumers' privacy concerns increased, the frequency with which they registered on websites decreased, the frequency with which they provided incomplete information increased, and the frequency in which they requested removal of their names from mailing lists increased (Sheehan and Hoy 1999). All of these consequences clearly have a negative impact on the ability of firms to collect information. Another study found that relieving consumers' privacy concerns leads to a higher willingness to disclose personal information (Wang et al. 2004). As mentioned previously, one major way to do this is to facilitate a sense of trust between the consumer and the firm. In a national study of 5,000 direct mail consumers, it was found that consumers' feeling of trust in a firm positively influences their willingness to share information (Schoenbachler and Gordon 2002). In fact, it has been found that establishing trust is more effective than addressing privacy concerns when managing consumer information (Milne and Boza 1999).

Firm-Related Privacy Issues

In addition to the literature on consumer-related privacy issues, researchers have also examined privacy from the perspective of the firm. In general, this firm-level research has addressed three main privacy issues: 1) the extent to which firms are following the fair information practices (FIPs) in their privacy policies/ notices, 2) the legal and business challenges that firms face when dealing with consumer privacy protection, and 3) the various alternatives available to firms in order to manage and communicate consumer privacy protection while pursuing strategic and financial success in the marketplace.

Compliance with FIPs--In 1998, the FTC issued a report to the U.S. Congress that investigated the self-regulation of online privacy by commercial businesses (FTC 1998). In the report, the FTC argued that the protection of consumer privacy was necessary for consumers to participate in the online marketplace and for electronic commerce to reach its full potential. The FTC commissioned a study that analyzed the collection of personal information and compliance with the FIPs of over 1,400 online commercial websites. The FIPs were defined as notice/awareness, choice/consent, access/participation, integrity/security, and enforcement/redress (see the Appendix for full details on the FIPs). The results from the study indicated that although more than 85% of commercial websites collected some form of personal information, only 14% provided notice of their information practices, with only 2% doing so through a comprehensive privacy policy (FTC 1998). While a follow-up study in 2000 provided evidence that more firms were providing privacy statements/policies, the FTC concluded that more had to be done to encourage firms to self-regulate their privacy practices and ensure the adoption of the FIPs.

Independent studies have also been conducted that examine the adoption of the FIPs by firms both across and within industries. In a study that examined consumer privacy across industry sectors, Culnan (2000) found that 92.8% of commercial websites collect some form of personal information. Of those websites that posted a privacy disclosure, only 13.6% contained all five FIPs, and only 24.9% contained any four of the five elements. Unlike the 1998 FTC study, Culnan found that 89.8% contained at least one element of notice (Culnan 2000). In a four year (1998-2001) longitudinal study, Milne and Culnan (2002) examined changes in privacy policies, information practices, and FIP compliance for commercial online websites. They found that there were significant increases in all three of these categories. Specifically, they found that more firms were offering privacy policies, that the privacy policies contained more information on the firm's information practices, and that FIP compliance was increasing in the areas of notice, control, and security. Although the data for access were incomplete, the percentage of websites providing consumers with access to their data was significantly less than compliance with the other categories, suggesting that while the majority of firms are addressing the issue of consumer knowledge, they only partially address the issue of control (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Milne and Culnan 2002).

Research has also examined FIP compliance within several different industry sectors. In the retail sector, Miyazaki and Fernandez (2000) found considerable differences in the privacy and security disclosures among online retailers in 17 different shopping categories. A study of Internet health related websites found that although close to 90% of the sites provided some form of notice of their information practices, less than 30% provided information about choice and security, and only 15% provided access (Sheehan 2005). In a study of the privacy policies of 35 Fortune e-50 firms, researchers evaluated the firms' privacy statements in terms of a range of FIP compliance (i.e., full, partial, or noncompliance) and found that the vast majority of firms only partially comply with all of the FIPs (Ryker et al. 2002). Another study that examined the range of compliance in the privacy policies of 30 of the largest international hotel websites revealed similar findings, with the majority of hotels only partially complying with the FIPs (O'Conner 2003). In the non-profit sector, a study of 102 Christian church web sites found that although the vast majority (99%) collected personal information (including information about children), only 36% provided security, only 13% provided notice, and only 2% provided some form of choice (Hoy and Phelps 2003).

The results of these studies suggest that while many firms are increasingly providing privacy policies, there still remains substantial variance in the content of their privacy policies, in their actual information practices, and in their level of FIP compliance. Although firms realize that their position on consumer privacy protection can affect their long-term customer relationships (Nowak and Phelps 1997; Schoenbachler and Gordon 2002), there is still little consistency among firms' privacy policies. Many firms have discovered that explicitly communicating a privacy policy can reduce consumers' fears of providing personal information and build trust in the exchange relationship (Andrade, Kalcheva, and Weitz 2002; Eastlick et al. 2006; Milne and Boza 1999). At the same time, many firms still craft their privacy policies to benefit and protect the firm first and address consumer privacy issues second (Nowak and Phelps 1997; Pollach 2005; Thomas and Maurer 1997).

Legal and Business Challenges--Most market-oriented programs are a two-way street. They can help create personalized communications, customized offerings, and higher levels of customer service only if consumers are willing to provide the firm more personal information (Rust et al. 2002). This poses a unique challenge for market-oriented firms: how to balance greater value delivery through the collection of customer information while addressing both the legal and personal concerns about consumer privacy (Nowak and Phelps 1997). On the legal front, in addition to complying with the FIPs, firms need to be aware of legislation specific to their industries and to their area of operation in the U.S. (Bloom, Milne, and Adler 1994). For instance, legislation exists in the health insurance industry (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), credit reporting industry (Fair Credit Reporting Act), and telemarketing (National Do Not Call Registry). At the state level, a number of different laws exist to protect consumer privacy (Peslak 2005; Smith 2002). For instance, where California forbids using state-agency transaction information (such as auto or property registration), Maryland forbids asking for phone numbers of people when they sign credit card slips (Bloom et al. 1994). Firms also need to be aware of technology-specific legislation. For instance, technologies such as Caller ID that enable firms to determine the name, address, credit card number, credit rating, past shopping behavior, etc. of the caller before answering the call, are permitted in states like California only if "blocking" (wherein the caller can disable the Caller ID mechanism) is allowed (Bloom et al. 1994). The challenge, therefore, is to a priori manage the strategic planning before launching products, services, technology, and customer data collection in a new market, so that lawsuits under privacy protection legislation can be avoided.

In addition to the potential legal pitfalls, privacy protection also poses unique business challenges for firms (e.g., how to best manage self-regulation of consumer privacy so as to deliver an optimal level of privacy protection without unduly restricting the business practices of the firm) (Bowie and Jama12006). How consumers perceive the firm's privacy protection efforts is critical to resolving this issue (Culnan and Bies 2003). Research suggests that if consumers do not perceive firms as adequately protecting their privacy, they will distrust self-regulation and prefer state intervention (Milberg et al. 2000). Other scholars argue that if privacy protection is left to the free market forces (assuming no government intervention), the amount of privacy will decline over time due to the fact that firms will find it increasingly expensive to maintain privacy (Jones 1991; Thomas and Maurer 1997; Rust et al. 2002). Therefore the business challenge is to create conditions so that self-regulation of privacy meets or exceeds the expectations of consumers while minimizing the costs of self-regulation for the firm.

Managing Privacy Protection--A growing body of literature addresses ways that firms can address privacy issues to not only abate consumer concerns, but also ensure corporate health. A framework has been proposed that suggests that firm-level factors (e.g., age, experience, profit/non-profit, public/private, and corporate culture) should be taken into consideration (in addition to historical, ethical, and legal factors) before arriving at a privacy protection strategy (Sarathy and Robertson 2002). Research suggests that these firm-level factors have a direct bearing on the degree and type of privacy protection offered by a firm. For instance, it is argued that for-profit businesses that are more information-driven, privately-held, and customer-oriented are more likely to be diligent about protecting privacy and ensuring long-term customer loyalty (Sarathy and Robertson 2002).

Various recommendations have been made to help firms better manage the self-regulation of consumer privacy protection. One recommendation is that firms should conduct a cost-benefit analysis, where the costs include the costs of compliance (i.e., costs of access to data, providing notice, getting consent, giving choice, etc.) against the benefits of additional revenue gains (Sarathy and Robertson 2002). The firm should pick a privacy strategy that aims to reduce the total cost of compliance (e.g., through effective database design) or be willing to compensate the consumer in exchange of more personal information (Milne and Gordon 1993; Sheehan and Hoy 2000). It is also recommended that firms should monitor the gains from the collection of consumer information (e.g., personalization and customization of marketing programs) and communicate these gains to the consumers. Importantly, if consumers do not perceive any gains or an increase in value from the firm's information collection practices, they are more likely to be concerned about providing the firm with personal information (Ashworth and Free 2006; Sarathy and Robertson 2002).

Another recommendation that is often mentioned as a precursor to effective self-regulation is the notion of the firm's trustworthiness (Culnan and Armstrong 1999; Milne and Boza 1999; Sarathy and Robertson 2002; Wang et al. 2004). Winning consumer trust is seen as a strong antecedent to conveying privacy protection to consumers. As mentioned above, research suggests that improving trust helps to reduce consumers' privacy concerns concerning the collection and analysis of personal information (Milne and Boza 1999). Results indicate that consumers who trust businesses attribute it to past experience, reputation, contractual information (i.e., firms clearly disclosing information practices), and regulation (Milne and Boza 1999). It has been suggested that firms can enhance consumer trust, especially in the context of privacy, by building stronger relationships with their customers, maintaining transparent privacy policies, providing fair information practices/procedures, restricting secondary use to consumer information, and signaling actions taken by the firm that serve consumers better (Campbell 1997; Culnan and Armstrong 1999; Milne and Boza 1999; Wang et al. 2004).

Communicating Privacy Protection--Articulating an explicit and transparent privacy policy is also seen as an important precursor to effective privacy protection by firms. Research has examined privacy policies from a linguistic perspective in order to determine if the language of these policies adequately conveys a firm's information practices so the person reading them can provide informed consent (Pollach 2005). Analysis shows that many corporate privacy policies are not very transparent and are often confusing to the reader. It has also been found that most firms use one of four communicative strategies when crafting a privacy policy: 1) mitigation and enhancement (i.e., firms mitigate the negative impact of certain actions and selectively enhance the qualities of other practices), 2) persuasive appeals (i.e., firms use rational and emotional appeals to show consumers that they are trustworthy and reliable), 3) obfuscation of reality (i.e., firms use the hedging technique of using confusing language to side-step privacy issues), and 4) relationship building (i.e., firms use language to emotionally involve readers in the discourse). It has been recommended that firms need to reconsider the unethical practices involved in crafting privacy statements and to revise the wording of their privacy policies in more transparent and responsible ways (Pollach 2005).

Other researchers have analyzed privacy policies in terms of their level of readability (Milne, Culnan, and Greene 2006; Sheehan 2005). Readability has been measured in terms of the grade level at which a privacy policy is written and ease of reading it (Flesch 1949). Because knowledge is a key dimension of consumer privacy and notice, or awareness of a firm's information practices, is one of the five FIPs that firms should follow, consumers should to be able to read and understand a firm's privacy policy in order to exercise their right to privacy. In a longitudinal study of 312 online privacy notices, it was found that the average readability level of privacy policies, as well as their length, had increased between 2001 and 2003 (Milne et al. 2006). Most of the privacy policies analyzed were written at a grade-level much higher than the U.S. national average. This may help to explain why many consumers do not read privacy policies and why their understanding of these policies and their rights remains quite low (Milne, Rohm, and Bahl 2004). In a study of direct-to-consumer drug web site privacy policies, it was found that readability of the policies (almost a twelfth grade-level) was far above the suggested eighth-grade level (Sheehan 2005). Given the sensitivity of medical/health-related information, though, it was found that most consumers still try to read these policies before transmitting personal information.


As evidenced by the literature review, research on consumer privacy has grown considerably in the past 20 years and has provided many insights to researchers, practitioners, and policy makers alike. While this research has made significant contributions towards highlighting consumer privacy as a critical business issue, it has addressed this phenomenon primarily from a social point of view and has focused less on developing consumer privacy from a theoretical and practitioner perspective (Margulis 2003). That is, the majority of research reviewed in this article examines consumers' attitudes and behaviors regarding privacy issues and the societal impact of firms' privacy policies and information practices through descriptive studies. Less research attention has been devoted to defining the domain of consumer privacy, operationalizing its various components, and testing the relationships between its antecedents and consequences. In addition, recent changes in information technology, social and cultural mores, and geopolitical policies have affected peoples' view of privacy, participation, and surveillance. In the first section, we propose various extensions to current literature that future consumer privacy research can take in order to develop a more theoretically-driven body of research that may possibly aid in the establishment of a theory of consumer privacy. In the second section, we discuss contemporary issues related to consumer privacy that merit attention in the academic literature.

Future Consumer Privacy Research: Theoretical Issues

In this section, we examine areas of future consumer privacy research that deal specifically with ways to strengthen the theoretical foundations of consumer privacy. These areas include the operationalization of consumer privacy, the examination of competing consumer privacy rights, the understanding of the ethics of consumer privacy, and the strategy of consumer privacy. Existing research has laid the foundation on these topics, but considerable work still remains to achieving a comprehensive understanding of consumer privacy.

Operationalizing Consumer Privacy--Early work in consumer privacy focused on exploring the foundations of the general concept of privacy and developing and refining the notion of consumer privacy (e.g., Jones 1991). Although many philosophical and legal definitions of privacy have been explored in the literature, consumer privacy has been defined mainly in terms of two dimensions: 1) knowledge and 2) control (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Goodwin 1991; Nowak and Phelps 1995). With much of the literature accepting these dimensions of consumer privacy, a clear operationalization of these components clearly deserves further research attention. The task of operationalizing the dimensions of consumer privacy, though, is indeed complex. Interestingly, although most researchers define consumer privacy in terms of knowledge and control, they tend to measure consumer privacy protection in terms of the five FIPs (notice, access, control, security, and enforcement), as well as additional factors not covered by the FIPs (Culpan 2000; Hoy and Phelps 2003; Sheehan 2005). Although the FIPs were written in terms of protecting, rather than defining, consumer privacy, they do suggest that there may be more aspects to consumer privacy than those captured in the conventional definitions (Sheehan and Hoy 2000). Likewise, consumers' perceptions of their degree of knowledge and choice, rather than the actual existence of these dimensions, may impact consumers' overall privacy concerns (Eastlick et al. 2006). This suggests that the dimensions of consumer privacy may have to be expanded and operationalized in such a way as to capture both the objective and perceptual aspects of consumer privacy.

If consumer privacy researchers are going to continue to rely on the FIPs as the standard for evaluating consumer privacy protection, then it is also necessary to outline fully what the five FIPs entail. As originally crafted by the FTC (1998), each of the five FIPs encompasses a number of different dimensions (see Appendix). Unfortunately, much of the consumer privacy research has only focused on the broader categories of the FIPs when assessing consumer privacy protection. Is it really appropriate to argue that a firm complies with the FIP of notice if it simply tells consumers that it collects information and nothing else? This would seem to constitute very weak notice on the part of the firm. Likewise, if a firm offers consumers opt-in/opt-out choices concerning the receipt of promotions/solicitations, but does not give them any choice over how their information is managed or whom it is shared with, does this really constitute control? A few researchers have attempted to define each of the FIPs as multi-dimensional constructs in order to evaluate the extent (e.g., low, medium, and high) to which privacy policies encompass all of the dimensions of the five FIPs (O'Conner 2003; Ryker et al. 2002). This clearly makes more sense, but there is currently no consensus in the literature on what constitutes the necessary dimensions of each of the FIPs. As a result, operationalizing not only consumer privacy, but also the dimensions of the FIPs would enhance our understanding of consumer privacy and its protection. For example, we feel that a more adequate test of notice would include whether firms have identified in their privacy statements the entity collecting their data, the nature of the data collected, the means by the which the data will be collected, the uses to which the data will be put, the potential recipients of the data, whether provision of the data requested is voluntary or required, and the steps taken by the data collector to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and quality of the data (FTC 1998).

Additionally, future research should also address the relationships between the various dimensions of consumer privacy. Although intuitively there seems to be a relationship between knowledge (notice) and control, the literature suggests many different relationships. For example, while there is agreement among researchers that consumers who possess high levels of both knowledge and control require the least amount of privacy protection (Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Goodwin 1991), there is also the view that increased knowledge reduces consumers' desire for control (Milne and Gordon 1993). This suggests that there may be an inverse relationship between knowledge and control (i.e., the more knowledge consumers have, the more they are willing to relinquish control). Likewise, there appears to be a relationship between control and access. Does a consumer really have control if they do not have access to their information? At most, it appears that they only have partial control. In addition, while most of the consumer privacy studies ignore the FIP of enforcement, security probably does not mean much unless there is actionable redress for violations of consumer privacy protection. Without clearly operationalizing these concepts and testing the relationships under various conditions, we are left merely to speculate on how they interact.

Examining Competing Consumer Rights--Two issues related to the definition of consumer privacy that also deserve further theoretical development include consumer privacy rights and information ownership. It has been argued that privacy is not an absolute right and that consumers' right to privacy often conflicts with other rights, such as consumers' right to be informed and marketers' right to free speech (Borna and Avila 1999; Goodwin 1991; Milne and Gordon 1993). In order to clearly understand the relationships between these various rights/privileges, it is necessary to understand theoretically the trade-offs consumers are willing to make between these rights. For instance, research suggests that the role the consumer plays in the decision-making process explains the conflict between the right to privacy and the right to be informed (Lally 1996). The complexity of consumers' perceived rights/privileges suggests that there could be other factors (e.g., involvement, commitment, intentions), beyond the personal, social, and cultural factors outlined in the literature, that impact the trade-offs between privacy and other rights. For example, whether the consumers perceives a transaction with a firm as a single, discrete exchange or the beginning of a long-term commercial relationship may impact their willingness to provide information and the particular right (e.g., right to privacy versus the right to be informed) that takes precedence. Identification and examination of these additional factors and their relationships will not only extend our theoretical understanding, but also potentially inform future business strategy and policy/regulation concerning privacy rights.

In addition, the question of information ownership (i.e., who controls consumer information once it has been collected) is a central issue in the debate over consumer privacy (Borna and Avila 1999; Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993). In order to address this issue, it is necessary for us to understand what exactly constitutes information ownership, how perceptions of ownership vary by information type, and what other factors intensify or mitigate claims to ownership. Because the characteristics of information are different than those of physical possessions (i.e., even when you give or sell information, you still have possession of it), this privacy issue may be better addressed in relation to intellectual property laws. That is, information ownership may be defined in terms of who possesses and maintains the rights to the information and its distribution. We propose that a better understanding of these issues will have a direct impact on the privacy dimensions of knowledge and control, as well as on various other consumer issues such as trust, commitment, and purchase intention. In turn, we also propose that these issues will also impact the long-term business-to-consumer relationship in terms of consumer satisfaction, quality perceptions, and brand loyalty. As a result, businesses, as well as consumers, must be aware of the trade-offs concerning information ownership that are inherent in the consumer privacy debate.

Understanding the Ethical Dimensions of Consumer Privacy--Many of the articles that have examined the ethical dimensions of consumer privacy are conceptual in nature and are based primarily on logical arguments (e.g., Ashworth and Free 2005; Caudill and Murphy 2000; Charters 2002; Culnan and Bies 2003; Foxman and Kilcoyne 1993; Milne and Gordon 1993; Peslak 2005). Although the number of ethical frameworks that have been used is quite extensive (e.g., teleological ethics, deontological ethics, justice theory, and social contract theory), it seems unlikely that all of these theories apply in every situation associated with consumer privacy. In order to extend this area of research, marketers should test under what conditions each of these ethical frameworks has the greatest impact on consumer privacy and the implications of utilizing different ethical frameworks. For example, Culnan and Armstrong (1999) examine the relationship between procedural justice and trust and its effect on the disclosure of personal information. Given the normative component of privacy, it seems likely that there are main effects and interactions between the various ethical dimensions and dimensions of consumer privacy. Therefore, in order to expand our understanding of consumer privacy and its antecedents and consequences, it would be valuable to extend this ethical research by testing the relationship of a firm's ethical practices and consumer perceptions of these practices on consumer privacy.

Exploring the Strategy of Consumer Privacy--In order for firms to be more effective in delivering value in the future, managing consumer privacy protection has to move beyond being a tactical concern towards being a more strategic one. While the notion of privacy protection as a strategic asset has been alluded to by other scholars (Ashworth and Free 2006), future research should examine the drivers and conditions that help firms' manage privacy protection as a strategically beneficial and proactive alternative. Most firms simply react and adapt to regulatory, industry, or consumer pressures regarding consumer privacy (Sarathy and Robertson 2003). As consumers and policy makers look toward heightened legislation, firms should look beyond being reactive, and instead embrace proactive approaches to managing privacy. Two areas in which this proactive adaptation can play out include organizational structure and strategy (Jennings and Seaman 1994).

In terms of organizational structure, research attention should be given to ways of institutionalizing consumer privacy protection within the firm. For instance, both the short-term and long-term impact of hiring privacy officers ought to be examined. Business practitioners note that privacy officers can not only help assess privacy risks and craft privacy policies, but can also audit company processes and handle consumer complaints and resolution (Shea 2002). In addition, the effectiveness of privacy officers needs to be examined in terms of the contributions they make to the firm's strategic planning and their proactive stance towards putting a good consumer privacy policy in place before it is legislated by the state. By understanding how to utilize privacy offers in a way that benefits both the organization and its customers, firms will be better able to manage the costs associated with consumer privacy protection and to communicate the benefits that accrue to customers.

In terms of strategy, research needs to address a firm's concern for consumer privacy within the broad domain of market orientation (Kohli and Jaworski 1990; Narver and Slater 1990). The full impact of market orientation on the nature and extent of consumer privacy protection needs to be investigated (Dolnicar and Jordaan 2007). From a more strategic perspective, perhaps the very definition of market orientation needs to be re-examined so as to include privacy protection as a critical component of being customer-oriented. The traditional definition of market orientation includes the components of customer orientation, competitor orientation, and interfunctional coordination (Narver and Slater 1990). The domain of the customer orientation component, however, is limited to basic marketing goals such as understanding needs, creating value, and measuring satisfaction. A more progressive redefinition of customer orientation, especially one that includes the goals of creating safety and trust, which have been shown to be directly affected by a firm's information practices and privacy policies, may be in order. Additionally, firms that do go the extra mile on privacy protection need to ensure that their efforts are rightly reflected in measurable marketing outcomes, such as loyalty, brand image, and overall brand equity. Longitudinal empirical work is needed to assess the impact of privacy protection efforts, over multiple years, on customer loyalty and brand equity. It is indeed critical to assess the impact that a firm's consumer privacy protection efforts have on customer acquisition, customer retention, and customer profitability, since these are the primary goals of any market-oriented effort.

Being strategic about consumer privacy could also include using consumer privacy protection as a positioning platform, especially for firms that deal with transfer of highly sensitive information such as financial and medical services. For instance, should firms position themselves on the basis of differentiation in privacy protection vis-a-vis their competitors? Although it has been argued in the literature that firms will find it hard to compete on privacy protection since it falls into the category of negative information (Jones 1991), as incidents of identity theft or other privacy violations increase, consumers may actively seek out firms that provide greater privacy protection. In fact, consumers are now willing to pay banks, credit card companies, and credit agencies just to monitor their credit for fraudulent transactions. Likewise, as customization and personalization gain wider popularity (Pine, Victor, and Boyton 1993; Suprenant and Solomon 1987), firms that are positioned as "safer" or "trustworthy" on the privacy dimension will likely have a competitive advantage (Bowie and Jamal 2006). Future research could throw some light on the efficacy of such an approach.

Finally, more work is needed on effective communication of consumer privacy policies and protection efforts by firms. Clearly, the communication to consumers needs to go beyond a documented privacy policy, which research has found that most consumers do not read. Firms need to communicate the results of their privacy protection efforts, such as successful compliance with regulations, more effective personalization for consumers, reduced or lack of third party solicitations, etc., in order to gain future customer support (Sarathy and Robertson 2003). One way that firms are communicating their privacy protection is through third-party privacy seals (Caudhill and Murphy 2000; Miyazaki and Krishnamurthy 2002; Rifon, LaRose, and Choi 2005). Future research should address the optimal mix, vehicles, and frequency of such communication.

Future Consumer Privacy Research: Contemporary Issues

In addition to extending the existing work on consumer privacy, research also needs to examine current trends and behaviors in consumer privacy. The growing problem of identity theft, the popularity of Internet websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and You Tube, and the events of 9/11 have all had an impact on not only on perceptions of privacy, but also on the related notions of participation and surveillance. This section explores some of the issues related to these three concepts and suggests areas for new consumer privacy research.

Identity Theft--Identity theft, which is defined as "the appropriation of someone else's identity to commit fraud or theft" (Milne 2003, p.388), is one of the most important and widely reported contemporary issues in consumer privacy. In 2002, the FTC reported that victims of identity theft numbered more than 9.9 million and accrued a total loss estimated at $5 billion (Stafford 2004). Identity theft usually occurs when someone uses another person's information (e.g., social security number, birthday, name, and address) to secure rights and privileges s/he does not possess (e.g., an illegal immigrant obtaining a drivers license) and/or to obtain credit in order to purchase items (Milne 2003; Sovern 2004). This information is often obtained through stealing a person's wallet/purse, stealing a person's mail, pilfering through the trash, or engaging in online surveillance (FTC 2001). Given its widespread nature and the ease by which identity theft can be committed, the issue has received both legislative and academic attention. In 1998, the U.S. Congress criminalized identity theft by passing the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. Unfortunately, the act did little to stop the practice of identity theft and it continued to grow (Sovern 2004). In December 2003, President Bush signed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) into law, which was developed in part to thwart and fight this increase in identity theft. Although some scholars have examined FACTA and other identity theft related legislation (Linnhoff and Langenderfer 2004), more research is needed to study the effects of these acts on identity theft and to determine what else needs to be done at the governmental level to address this important privacy issue.

In addition, there is a small but growing body of academic literature that has begun to address issues of identity theft. In a study of consumer protection practices, Milne (2003) found that although most people follow some types of identity theft preventive measures, more consumer education is needed so that individuals can fully protect themselves. Research is needed to determine the best way to educate consumers about identity theft prevention and victim recovery practices. Also driven by the importance of this problem, the Journal of Consumer Affairs recently organized a refereed research colloquium on identity theft. In the resulting papers, scholars have addressed means of curbing identity theft from various angles including using loss allocation rules of common law to force the credit industry to try to prevent identity theft (Sovern 2004), encouraging better organizational preparation and response to identity theft (Lacey and Cuganesan 2004), and developing collective actions of government, businesses, and consumers to jointly protect information from theft (Milne et al. 2004). Lastly, there is work that links consumer demographics to the risk of experiencing identity theft (Anderson 2006). In this study, it was found that women, consumers with high incomes, and younger consumers are found to be at higher risk for identity theft (Anderson 2006).

A number of issues, however, remain unresolved and should direct future research in this area. For instance, the impact of identity theft on the future consumer behavior of victims deserves to be better understood. In addition, research should examine the behaviors of those consumers who do not perceive themselves to be at risk. Research should also examine the role of third parties (e.g., trade associations and information brokers) in dealing with identity theft.

Consumer Online Behavior--In spite of the steady increase in identity theft, the amount and type of information that individuals are voluntarily posting on the Internet has also increased. Two recent PEW Internet and American Life Project studies found that more than 53 million American adults have posted personal information to the Internet (e.g., photographs, newsgroup postings, blogs) and more than half (55%) of American youths ages 12-17 have created detailed profiles on an online social networking site (e.g., MySpace and Facebook) (PEW 2004, 2007). While much of this information may be innocuous, once it has been posted to a publicly accessible website on the Internet, it becomes a matter of public record (McMenamin and Parmar 2007). Anyone from your friends, to the local police, to would-be identity thieves can access this information. And while many people, especially teens, say they do not care about the surveillance of their data and that it has brought them many positive benefits (Nussbaum 2007), it can also have negative consequences. For example, a mother in Oregon and a couple in Maryland were arrested based on information posted on their children's MySpace pages (McMenamin and Parmar 2007). Research should be conducted to determine the degree to which consumers are aware of the possible negative consequences of posting their information on the Internet, beyond the typical security threats, and their attitudes towards these consequences. Researchers should also study perceptions of risk associated with these behaviors and the trade-offs that consumers make when voluntarily posting their information.

In a recent article in the New York magazine, Nussbaum (2007) argues that most American teens accept that privacy no longer exists and that we now live in a surveillance society, and instead of resisting this lack of privacy in our lives, we should embrace it. This sentiment has been echoed by business founders Larry Ellison of Oracle and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems who have argued that privacy is largely an illusion and that we just need to get over it (Black 2001; Sprenger 1999). The fact that their companies produce systems that track peoples' information may have something to do with these opinions. Even academics argue that privacy is an overblown concept and that we are concerned about something that we have never had in the first place (Glazer 1998). Whatever the underlying cause of these perspectives, they all point at the inherent relationship between privacy, disclosure, and surveillance. Researchers should examine if there has been a fundamental shift in peoples' privacy expectations. For instance, have we as Americans moved from resisting invasions of privacy to embracing surveillance? More importantly, is this possible shift in attitudes a product of marketing or other business practices? Do we now live in a tabloid world in which we demand, and now accept, close surveillance of all individuals? Does our "right to know" now supersede all other rights? Not surprisingly, federal and state governments, as well as many businesses, have resisted intervening in these activities on legal grounds (McMenamin and Parmar 2007). Whatever the merit of these legal claims, there are clearly political and economic benefits to allowing and enticing individuals to provide detailed information about themselves.

As we have seen in the previous discussion on the ethics of consumer privacy, what benefits government and businesses does not always benefit the consumer. If you believe the argument that the fundamental difference between democracy and dictatorship is the degree of privacy protection and surveillance that these two types of societies entail (Westin 1967), then we may need to be concerned that consumers are giving up more than their right to privacy by willingly revealing so much of their personal information online. Although consumers argue that this unrestrained personal disclosure and transparency equates to the ultimate sense of freedom (Nussbaum 2007), others argue that this unconstrained flow of information actually undermines self-development and personal liberty (Rosen 2004; Solove 2007). As Zwick and Dholakia (2004) argue, a person's digital identity becomes his or her "real" identity, which the person then has little control over. Research is needed to address this online information phenomenon and its effects not only on privacy, but also on the underlying function of democratic and capitalistic societies. Specifically, research should determine what role marketing and business strategy plays in consumer online information practices and their broader societal effects.

Consumer Profiling--The increased collection of information by firms has led to a new a relatively new practice known as consumer profiling. Whereas traditional segmentation uses information to divide a heterogeneous market into smaller groups based on similar characteristics, needs, or behaviors (Dickson and Ginter 1987; Green and Krieger 1991), consumer (or customer) profiling uses information to infer characteristics about consumers and predict their behaviors (Min 2006; Mussi 2006; Spangler, Hartzel, and Gal-Or 2006). Consumer profiling often utilizes large amounts of disparate information such as demographic data, product preferences, shopping behaviors, media habits, and financial information to create dossiers on consumers which are then stored in huge databases (Batislam, Denizel, and Filiztekin 2007; Qian, Jiang, and Tsui 2006). This information can be gathered from various sources, including the data trail that consumers leave behind when using the Internet, choosing programming on their digital television sets through TIVO, using their grocery or supermarket membership cards, or simply using their credit cards. Market-oriented processes such as customer relationship management (CRM) have institutionalized these practices by utilizing advances in information technology to increase in the collection and analysis of consumer information (Chan 2005).

While researchers have alluded to the privacy dangers of consumer profiling (Gertz 2002; Olivero and Lunt 2004; Spangler, Hartzel, and Gal-Or 2006; Wiedmann, Buxel, and Walsh 2002), it is a growing reality that deserves more research attention. As the depth of data on individual consumers continues to grow, firms will have to balance their market-oriented strategies with their surveillance of consumers very carefully. While research should examine individuals' perceptions of and reactions to consumer profiling, this is an area where future work on the organizational side is sorely needed. For example, what is the best way for firms to manage customer relationships without being (or appearing to be) too invasive of consumer privacy? Clearly business-to-business relationships follow a different paradigm here than consumer marketing, but this is an area that also needs to be explored. The conventional wisdom is that business-to-business clients are glad to share company specific information (e.g., firm demographics, market strategies, credit histories) in return for more customized and personalized services (Chan 2005). This leads to the questions, what constitutes privacy in the organizational realm and how willing are firms to divulge sensitive information to each other? This area needs further exploration.

New Technology Surveillance--Technological advances in various fields have led to the rise of a number of different surveillance-based technologies being tested in the marketplace. For instance, radio frequency identification (RFID) allows any and every product to be uniquely identified through signals transmitted by a device embedded in the product (Peslak 2005). While the technology has tremendous implications for supply chain management, especially inventory control, it raises a number of concerns about consumer privacy (Kumar, Pauly, and Budin 2007). Because RFID tags can be read from a distance (Cochran, Tatikonda, and Magid 2007), consumers wearing clothing with RFIG tags or carrying RFID embedded credit cards can potentially have their location tracked, any time of day or night. Future research needs to look beyond just the ethics of RFID and examine the extent of consumer acceptance of such technology and the effects that it could have on consumer behavior, such as consumer backlash against marketers using RFID. For example, one study has examined how RFID systems affect consumer trust (Lee et al. 2007).

Biometrics, or the identification of human beings through unique physical and behavioral characteristics, is another such technology (Jones et al. 2007). Although finger-prints are the most common form of biometric measurement, other identifiers such as hand prints, facial recognition, iris designs, and genetic profile can also be used to identify individuals. While clearly biometrics can be useful in various business sectors in thwarting fraud, it has ramifications for consumer profiling, consumer anonymity, and identity theft. This is especially the case considering that many biometric systems require other identifiers (e.g., social security numbers) to authenticate a person's identity (Bhargav-Spantzel et al. 2007). Research on organizational and consumer response to biometrics is woefully inadequate and the area of privacy and biometrics is ripe for future work.

Other Contemporary Privacy Issues--Privacy rights clearinghouse ( has identified a host of other privacy-related issues that may have only an indirect bearing on consumer privacy. Nevertheless, these issues deserve a mention and merit further research attention. Monitoring of employee activities at their workplace (e.g., Internet use, video surveillance, email use, and location tracking) is becoming more ubiquitous and may have a bearing on employee's psychological state and workplace performance (Brown 2000; Freedman and Reed 2007). Research could examine if individuals' privacy perceptions at work and their effects influence their privacy expectations in the market. Medical records, although covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), are available to everyone from healthcare providers and insurance companies, to labs and pharmacies. Importantly, patient consent is not required for information sharing between these agencies (Brown 2007). Research could examine if this lack of consumer privacy has any effect on consumers' health care costs? Even more alarming is the issue of financial privacy. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley law (2001) allows financial companies such as banks, mortgage companies, and insurance companies to share information such as loan repayments, investments, account balances in the savings and checking accounts, amongst each other or even with third parties. This often results in unsolicited direct marketing promotions, irrespective of consumer needs and wants. With the increase in identity theft, research should examine the degree to which these activities (e.g., the constant supply of credit card offers in the mail) contribute to security breaches and negative consequences. Finally, since the events of September 11, 2001, the USA Patriot Act has strengthened the ability of the state to wiretap telephone and Internet communications. Civil liberties groups point to the possibility of the government to abuse of the powers granted by this act and to further eroding of citizens' rights, especially the right to privacy, through its usage. Research should examine just how far consumers are willing to go in giving up their rights under the guise of increased security.


This article presents a summary of the general concept of privacy, a review of the consumer privacy literature, and suggestions for future research. Different aspects of privacy and consumer privacy are reviewed and discussed, including the nature of privacy and privacy rights, definitions of both privacy and consumer privacy, ethical dimensions of consumer privacy, and self-regulation of consumer privacy protection by firms. By integrating the extant work on consumer privacy, this article highlights the gaps in the literature and presents future research directions such as 1) defining and mapping out the domain of consumer privacy, 2) understanding the ethical dimensions of consumer privacy rights, and 3) determining the firm-level drivers of customer privacy protection. Substantial progress has been made since the late 1980s in our understanding of the concept of consumer privacy and many of the issues surrounding this concept.

However, there remains an opportunity for more theoretically-driven research in order to develop a working model that specifies and defines the domain of consumer privacy and highlights the relationships between the relevant individual-level and firm-level dimensions, as well as their antecedents and consequences. In addition, contemporary issues in consumer privacy such as identity theft, consumer online behavior, and consumer profiling suggest new areas for research in order to expand our understanding and refine our definitions. Through this review, we summarize the current state of consumer privacy research and suggest ways to extend this very important area of study. The following table succinctly presents our recommendations for future research in consumer privacy.


Fair Information Practices and their Dimensions (FTC 1998)

1. Notice/Awareness--consumers should be given notice of a firm's information practices. The following dimensions of notice have been identified as necessary to ensuring that consumers are properly informed:

a. Identifying the entity collecting the data

b. Identifying the nature of the data collected

c. Identifying the uses to which the data will be put

d. Identifying any potential recipients of the data

e. Identifying the means by which the data is collected (if not obvious)

f. Identifying whether the provision of the requested data is voluntary or required (and the consequences of refusal to provide the requested information)

g. Identifying the steps taken by the data collector to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and quality of the data

2. Choice/Consent--consumers should be provided with options as to how they would like their personal information to be used. The following dimensions of choice have been identified as necessary to ensuring that consumers can assert some control over the firm's information practices:

a. Providing choice regimes (e.g., opt-in or opt-out)

b. Providing a means for consumers to tailor the kinds of information they revealed

c. Providing a means for consumers to decide how their personal information will be used

d. Providing a means for consumers to remove information that has been collected

3. Access/Participation--consumers should be provided with a means to access data about him or herself. The following dimensions have been identified as necessary to providing consumers access:

a. Providing a simple, timely, and inexpensive way for consumers to view their personal data

b. Providing a simple means for consumers to contest inaccurate or incomplete data

c. Providing a mechanism by which the data collector can verify the consumer's information

d. Providing a means by which corrections and/or consumer objections can be added to the data file and sent to all recipients

4. Integrity/Security--firms must take steps to make sure that consumers' data is accurate and secure

a. Integrity--the following dimensions have been identified as necessary to data integrity:

i. Using only reputable sources of data

ii. Cross-referencing data against multiple sources

iii. Destroying untimely data or converting it to anonymous form

b. Security--the following dimensions have been identified as necessary to data security:

i. Establishing internal organizational measures that limit access to data

ii. Ensuring that those individual with access do not utilize data for unauthorized purposes

iii. Using encryption in the transmission and storage of data

iv. Establishing limits on access to data

v. Storing data in a secure location (e.g., secure servers and computers)

5. Enforcement/Redress--firms must have mechanisms in place to enforce and punish any violations of the fair information practices. The following dimensions have been identified as alternative ways to provide for enforcement and redress:

a. Participating in industry self-regulation

b. Obtaining privacy certification by outside agencies

c. Agreeing to legislation that would create remedies for consumers

d. Developing regulations that would enforce privacy protection through civil and criminal sanctions


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(1) 15 U.S.C 1681 (1970)

(2) 15 U.S.C. 1681, [section] 602b (1970)

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(4) 15 U.S.C. 552 (1974

Clinton D. Lanier, Jr.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Amit Saini

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Clinton D. Lanier, Jr. is a Ph.D. Candidate and Amit Saini is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Marketing, CBA 310, P.O. Box 880492, Lincoln, NE 68588-0492. Mr. Lanier can be reached by phone (402) 472-2316, fax (402) 472-9777, or email: Dr. Saini can be reached by phone (402) 472-2344, fax (402) 472-9777, or email:
Summary of Consumer Privacy Literature

Author(s)/Date       Focus of Article          Key Concepts/Issues

McCrohan             Examination of the        Types of consumer data:
(1989)               effect of information     registration,
                     technology on priva-      administrative,
                     cy, specifically, the     facilitation, and
                     government use of         survey. Uses of
                     marketing research        consumer data: program
                     data and computer         design, program
                     matching.                 evaluation, and program

Goodwin (1991)       Overview and defini-      Consumer privacy is
                     tion of consumer pri-     defined as the
                     vacy.                     consumer's ability to
                                               control (a) presence of
                                               other people in the
                                               environment during a
                                               market transaction or
                                               consumption behavior
                                               and (b) dissemination
                                               of information related
                                               to or provided during
                                               such transactions or
                                               behaviors to those who
                                               were not present.

Jones (1991)         Review of origins of      Three ways to promote
                     privacy concerns,         privacy protection
                     responses to these        through: 1) competi-
                     concerns, and privacy     tion, 2) industry
                     protection options.       self-regulation, and
                                               3) government
                                               regulation of minimum
                                               privacy standards.
                                               Provides information on
                                               the fair information

Nowak and            Examination of how        Study focuses on the
Phelps (1992)        well informed con-        use of individual-level
                     sumers are about          information--infor-
                     marketing informa-        mation that pertains or
                     tion gathering and use    relates to a single
                     practices.                identifiable person -
                                               by direct marketers.
                                               Study attempts to
                                               understand why
                                               consumers are concerned
                                               about their privacy.

Foxman and           Examination of the        Two important
Kilcoyne (1993)      ethical dimensions of     dimensions of consumer
                     marketing informa-        privacy are consumer
                     tion practices and        control and knowledge.
                     consumer privacy.         Two major ethical
                                               conflicts between
                                               marketing practice and
                                               consumer privacy
                                               include control of
                                               information (i.e.,
                                               information owner-ship)
                                               and conflicting rights.

Milne and Gor-       Examination of the        Direct mail is an
don (1993)           trade-offs consumers      implied social contract
                     make when consider-       in which consumers
                     ing the attributes of     provide information to
                     direct mail social        marketers in return for
                     contracts.                offers that may be of
                                               interest to them.
                                               Direct mail social
                                               contracts have four
                                               attributes: volume,
                                               and permission

Bloom, Milne,        Examination of the        Four areas of possible
and Adler (1994)     misuse of new infor-      IT misuse:
                     mation technologies       1) price-fixing through
                     (IT) in marketing.        information exchanges,
                                                2) monopolizing
                                               essential facilities,
                                               3) transmitting
                                               inaccurate information,
                                               and 4) violating
                                               privacy rights

Culnan (1995)        Study of consumer         Study focuses on the
                     awareness of name         use of secondary
                     removal procedures        information--
                     from mailing lists.       information that is
                                               collected for one
                                               purpose is reused for
                                               another purpose--by
                                               firms. Privacy issues
                                               concerning secondary
                                               information are
                                               examined in terms of
                                               the fair information
                                               practices: notice,
                                               choice, access,
                                               security, and en-

Taylor, Vassar,      Study of the beliefs      Issues addressed
and Vaught           of marketing              include: 1) differences
(1995)               professionals             of beliefs regarding
                     regarding consumer        privacy between
                     privacy.                  marketers and
                                               2) differences between
                                               different marketing
                                               groups, and 3) beliefs
                                               of marketers regarding
                                               automatic number
                                               identification (ANI).

Lally (1996)         Study of the conflict-    The article proposes
                     ing rights of accessi-    that situationally
                     bility and privacy.       conditioned belief
                                               (SCB), or the role an
                                               individual plays in the
                                               decision making
                                               process, explains the
                                               conflict between
                                               rights of privacy and

Campbell (1997)      Comparison of direct      Information privacy is
                     marketers and con-        defined as the ability
                     sumer attitudes about     of individuals to de-
                     information privacy.      termine the nature and
                                               extent of information
                                               about them which is
                                               being communicated to
                                               others. Three
                                               important aspects of
                                               information privacy
                                               include errors,
                                               collection, and
                                               access/ use.

Nowak and            Development of a          Analysis of Prosser's
Phelps (1997)        framework for ad-         four torts of privacy
                     dressing privacy con-     (intrusion, disclosure,
                     cerns that arise when     false light, and
                     direct marketers use      appropriation) suggests
                     individual-level con-     that most direct
                     sumer information.        marketing collection
                                               and use of consumer
                                               information is not
                                               illegal. Consumer
                                               privacy concerns cor-
                                               respond with
                                               information as well as
                                               consumer knowledge
                                               and control.

Thomas and           Examination of why        Sources of consumer
Maurer (1997)        consumer information      data: public,
                     in commercial mar-        transactional, and
                     keting databases is       long-term commercial
                     not likely to receive     relationships. Four
                     privacy protection.       primary uses of
                                               consumer data:
                                               commercial, decision
                                               support, lifestyle, and

Sheehan and          Examination of online     Seven possible online
Hoy (1999)           users' responses to       responses to privacy
                     privacy concerns          concerns: 1) not regis-
                                               tering with websites,
                                               2) providing incomplete
                                               information, 3) pro-
                                               viding inaccurate
                                               information, 4)
                                               notifying Internet
                                               providers, 5)
                                               requesting name
                                               removal, 6) sending
                                               a "flame," and 7) not
                                               reading unsolicited

Culnan and           Examination of the        Procedural justice
Armstrong            role of procedural        refers to the
(1999)               fairness in addressing    perception by the
                     privacy concerns.         individual that a
                                               particular activity in
                                               which they are a
                                               participant is
                                               conducted fairly.

Introna and Pou-     Examination of the        Development of a
loudi (1999)         social dimensions of      framework that explores
                     privacy on stakehold-     the interrelationship
                     ers' interests and        of privacy interests
                     values.                   and values of various
                                               stakeholders. Analysis
                                               based on three
                                               principles: 1) access
                                               principle, 2)
                                               principle, and 3) power

Milne and Boza       Study of how improv-      Study focuses on the
(1999)               ing trust and reducing    role of trust and
                     concern have distinct     concern in database
                     effects on managing       marketing. Antecedents
                     consumer informa-         of trust and control
                     tion.                     include perceived
                                               control, knowledge,
                                               and attitude toward
                                               relationship marketing.

Sheehan (1999)       Examination of gend-      Gender differences are
                     er differences in         examined in terms of
                     attitudes and             attitudes towards five
                     behaviors toward          dimensions of privacy
                     marketing practices       concern (i.e.,
                     involving information     awareness of data
                     gathering and             collection, information
                     online privacy.           use, information
                                               familiarity with the
                                               entity, and compensa-
                                               tion) and behaviors
                                               including reading un-
                                               solicited e-mail,
                                               notifying ISP,
                                               requesting name
                                               removal, sending a
                                               flame, and providing
                                               incomplete information.

Caudill and          Examination of legal      Consumer personal
Murphy (2000)        and ethical issues of     information consists of
                     consumer online pri-      both public and private
                     vacy.                     information. Ethical
                                               approaches to online
                                               privacy include social
                                               contract theory,
                                               duty-based theory, and
                                               virtue ethics.

Culnan (2000)        Study of 361 com-         Self-regulation is
                     mercial Web sites to      based on legislation,
                     determine the extent      enforcement, and
                     to which self-            adjudication carried
                     regulation is working     out by the private
                     to protect consumer       sector rather than the
                     privacy online.           government. Personal
                                               information includes
                                               information that both
                                               can and cannot
                                               identify the individu-
                                               al. Privacy disclosures
                                               include privacy policy
                                               notices and infor-
                                               mation practice

Milberg, Smith,      Development of a          Things that affect
and Burke            multinational ap-         privacy issues and
(2000)               proach to understand-     concerns across
                     ing information           countries include
                     privacy.                  cultural values,
                                               regulatory approaches,
                                               corporate privacy
                                               management styles,
                                               privacy problems, and
                                               regulatory preferences.

Milne (2000)         Explanation of a pri-     The privacy research
                     vacy research frame-      framework consists of
                     work for academic         four factors: 1) mar-
                     research on consumer      keter influences,
                     privacy.                  2) marketer information
                                               strategy, 3) consumer
                                               information behavior,
                                               and 4) consumer

Milne and Rohm       Survey of consumer        Four factors related to
(2000)               awareness and know-       name removal include
                     ledge of name remov-      1) purchase context,
                     al mechanisms across      2) consumer background,
                     direct marketing          3) customer
                     channels.                 satisfaction, and 4)
                                               situational variables.

Miyazaki and         Content analysis of       Online privacy concerns
Fernandez            online retail privacy     include customer
(2000)               and security disclo-      identification, unsoli-
                     sures of 381 commer-      cited contacts, and
                     cial Web sites in 17      distribution of
                     product categories.       customer information.
                                               Online security
                                               concerns include secure
                                               transactions, financial
                                               data security, and
                                               alternative payment

Petty (2000)         Examination of how        Consumer-borne
                     the collection of con-    marketing costs (CBMCs)
                     sumer information         include contact costs
                     imposes costs on con-     and reliance costs, as
                     sumers.                   well as pecuniary
                                               and non-pecuniary

Phelps, Nowak,       Examination of the        Study identifies five
and Ferrell          types of personal in-     types of information:
(2000)               formation, the bene-      demographic, life-
                     fits of providing this    style, shopping
                     information, factors      behavior, financial,
                     that affect               and personal
                     information sharing,      identifiers. Model for
                     and the tradeoffs         understanding consumer
                     consumers make in         privacy concerns
                     exchange for their        includes type of
                      information.             information, amount of
                                               control, consequences/
                                               benefits, consumer
                                               beliefs about marketers'
                                               information practices,
                                               and consumer concern.

Sheehan and          Survey of online con-     Fair information
Hoy (2000)           sumers' attitudes to-     practices (FIPs) include
                     ward online privacy.      notice, choice, access,
                                               security, and redress.
                                               Other dimensions that
                                               are important include
                                               how sensitive the
                                               person considers the
                                               information, how
                                               familiar the person is
                                               with the collecting
                                               entity, and what coin-
                                               pensation is offered in
                                               exchange for the

Phelps,              Examination of the        The two antecedents of
D' Souza,and         interrelationships be-    consumer privacy
Nowak (2001)         tween antecedents and     concerns examined are
                     consequences of con-      information control and
                     sumer privacy con-        consumers' attitudes
                     cerns.                    toward direct mar-
                                               keters. The two
                                               consequences of privacy
                                               concerns examined in-
                                               clude purchase decision
                                               making and purchase

Carroll (2002)       Analysis of whether       Study examines consumer
                     bankrupt Internet         privacy in terms of
                     companies can sell        Chapter 7 and Chapter
                     private consumer          11 bankruptcy
                     information to pay off    protection law and the
                     debt.                     commercial interests
                                               of creditors versus the
                                               privacy interests of

Charters (2002)      Analysis of the ethics    Electronic monitoring
                     of electronic monitor-    is defined as the use
                     ing of consumers and      of "cookies," or small
                     the implications of       data structures placed
                     this practice for con-    on a person's computer,
                     sumer privacy.            to collect and store
                                               information about
                                               consumers. These
                                               cookies allow marke-
                                               ters to develop
                                               profiles of consumers
                                               and to monitor and
                                               track their online

Milne and Cul-       Longitudinal analysis     Analysis of the data
nan (2002)           (1998-2001) of online     from four U.S. web
                     privacy studies.          surveys was used to
                                               determine the degree to
                                               which the online
                                               posting of privacy pol-
                                               icies and compliance
                                               with the fair
                                               information practices
                                               (FIPs) has changed
                                               over time.

Rust, Kannan,        Development of an         The economic model of
and Peng (2002)      economic model to         privacy is based on
                     project the erosion of    six assumptions: 1)
                     consumer privacy.         technology is
                                               advancing, 2) the cost
                                               of obtaining and
                                               processing information
                                               will decline, 3) con-
                                               sumers have an ideal
                                               level of privacy,
                                               4) companies may offer
                                               to sell privacy
                                               protection, 5) each
                                               unit of privacy sold is
                                               a unit of information
                                               not possessed by the
                                               firm, and
                                               6) information will
                                               only be sold in with
                                               its value exceeds
                                               its cost.

Culnan and Bies      Development of jus-       A major issue is who
(2003)               tice theory framework     should control personal
                     to explain how con-       information about the
                     sumer privacy con-        consumer. Information
                     cerns are shaped by       privacy is defined as
                     the perceived fairness    the ability of
                     of a firm's informa-      individuals to control
                     tion practices.           the terms under which
                                               their personal in-
                                               formation is acquired
                                               and used. Personal
                                               information is defined
                                               as information identi-
                                               fiable to the
                                               individual. A "second
                                               exchange," in which
                                               consumers make non-
                                               monetary exchange of
                                               their personal
                                               information for some
                                               value received, is at
                                               the heart of the flow
                                               of personal

Dommeyer and         Examination of con-       Development of
Gross (2003)         sumer knowledge of        knowledge, awareness,
                     privacy-related laws,     and protection scales.
                     and consumer aware-       Measurement of effects
                     ness and use of priva-    of gender, age, phone
                     cy protection             number listing status,
                     strategies.               and attitude towards
                                               direct marketing
                                               solicitation on aware-
                                               ness and use of privacy
                                               protection strategies.

Hoy and Phelps       Content analysis of       Church Web sites were
(2003)               102 nonprofit Chris-      analyzed in terms of
                     tian church Web sites     the FIPs: notice,
                     with a focus on priva-    choice, access,
                     cy and security           security, and dis-
                     issues.                   closure.

O'Connor             Content analysis of       Study examines the
(2003)               the privacy policies      compliance of
                     of the 30 largest         international hotel
                     international             privacy policies with
                     hotel brands.             a broad set of global
                                               privacy protection
                                               principles: notice,
                                               choice, onward
                                               transfer, access,
                                               security, integrity,
                                               and enforcement.

Sarathy and Ro-      Development of a          The framework incorpo-
bertson (2003)       framework to explain      rates four main
                     the factors that          factors: precursors
                     influence the             (e.g., national culture
                     privacy protection        and global trends),
                     provided by               external factors (e.g.,
                     firms.                    legislation and type of
                                               data), ethical framework
                                               (e.g., egoism,
                                               utilitarianism), and
                                               firm factors (e.g.,
                                               age, experience,

Milne and Cul-       Examination of why        Study examines the role
nan (2004)           consumers read (or do     of concern,
                     not read) online pri-     comprehension, demo-
                     vacy notices.             graphics, trust and
                                               experience on the
                                               reading of online
                                               privacy notices.

Zwick and Dho-       Explanation of con-       Based on poststructura-
lakia (2004)         sumer online identi-      list theory, digital
                     ties and how              representations, or
                     consumers can main-       consumers as a set of
                     tain a sense of control   data points, are argued
                     over their identities     to constitute total
                     and privacy in the age    consumer identity. The
                     of database market-       digital consumer is no
                     ing.                      longer entirely
                                               anonymous or private.

Pollach (2005)       Examination of priva-     The study explores the
                     cy policies from a        interests of key
                     linguistic perspective    stakeholders in online
                     to determine whether      privacy, examines data
                     they adequately ena-      handling techniques in
                     ble informed consent.     terms of various
                                               ethical theories, and
                                               presents the findings
                                               of a critical
                                               linguistic analysis of
                                               privacy policies.

Sheehan (2005)       Content analysis of       DTC drug online privacy
                     the privacy policies      policies were analyzed
                     of direct-to-consumer     in terms of the FIPs:
                     (DTC) branded drug        notice, choice, access,
                     Web sites. The study      and security. The
                     also examines the         FDA encourages these
                     "readability" of these    DTC Web sites to follow
                     privacy policies.         the FIPs.

Ashworth and         Application of theo-      A model of online
Free (2006)          ries of justice to un-    marketing is presented
                     derstand consumer's       that views the collec-
                     online privacy con-       tion and dissemination
                     cerns.                    of consumer information
                                               as a form of exchange.
                                               Fairness in this infor-
                                               mation exchange is
                                               analyzed in terms of
                                               distributive and proce-
                                               dural justice.

Bowie and Jamal      Examination of the        Issues examined include
(2006)               debate on self-           the philosophical
                     regulation versus         justifications for a
                     state-regulation of       right to privacy, FIP
                     privacy rights.           criteria for good
                                               privacy policies,
                                               comparison of
                                               e-commerce privacy laws
                                               between the EU and the
                                               US, web seals
                                               (such as TRUSTe), and
                                               choice consent policies
                                               (e.g., optin and

Eastlick, Lotz,      Examination of con-       A research model of
and Warrington       sumers' privacy con-      information privacy was
(2006)               cerns and perceived e-    used to examine the
                     tailer's reputation on    hypotheses that
                     consumer trust, coin-     consumers' privacy
                     mitment, and pur-         concerns impact their
                     chase intention.          online purchase
                                               intentions directly and
                                               indirectly through
                                               trust and commitment
                                               and that information
                                               choice strategies
                                               impact privacy
                                               concerns and trust.

Milne, Culnan,       Longitudinal assess-      Readability was
and Green            ment of the readabili-    measured primarily with
(2006)               ty of 312 online          the Flesch-Kincaid
                     privacy notices.          grade level and the
                                               Flesch reading ease

Lwin, Wirtz, and     Examination of con-       The Power-Responsibi-
Williams (2007)      sumer online privacy      lity Equilibrium (PRE)
                     concerns and res-         framework was used to
                     ponses.                   examine how consumers'
                                               actions are influenced
                                               by corporate policy
                                               and governmental
                                               regulations at the
                                               macro level.

Author(s)/Date       Key Proposals/Findings

McCrohan             The use of all four types of data for gov-
'(1989)              ernment program design and evaluation is
                     appropriate. Only the use of registration
                     data is appropriate for program enforce-
                     ment, since the use of the others would
                     severely impact individuals' willingness to
                     provide information.

Goodwin (1991)       Taxonomy of privacy states: 1) total con-
                     trol, 2) environment control, 3) disclosure
                     control, 4) no control. Four sources of
                     privacy conflict: 1) privacy and expected
                     service levels, 2) privacy and other rights,
                     3) privacy and cost of privacy protection,
                     4) privacy and societal values.

Jones (1991)         Privacy is not an issue on which firms are
                     likely to compete, since it falls into the
                     category of "negative" information about
                     the company. Self-regulation has led to
                     privacy codes that vary in scope and defi-
                     niteness. Certain minimum standards are
                     necessary to protect consumers' privacy.

Nowak and            Four main results: 1) privacy is an impor-
Phelps (1992)        tant concern among consumers, 2) many
                     consumers are not very knowledge-able
                     about direct marketing practices, 3) con-
                     sumer concern is affected by the type of
                     information and information use, and 4)
                     most consumers favor restrictions on the
                     gathering and use of personal information.
                     Consumer ignorance may be a significant
                     contributor to privacy concerns.

Foxman and           Firms justify their control of consumer
Kilcoyne (1993)      data on utilitarian grounds. This may just
                     be a form of egoism that denies the auton-
                     omy of the consumer. Consumers demand
                     conflicting rights: the right to privacy and
                     the right to being informed. These rights
                     also conflict with a firm's right to be left
                     alone. These rights have both deontologi-
                     cal and utilitarian justifications.

Milne and Gor-       Consumers want improved targeting effi-
don (1993)           ciency and lower mail volume, but they
                     are not willing to pay for these improve-
                     ments. Consumers perform a cost/benefit
                     analysis of the attributes of direct mail
                     when examining the privacy-efficiency
                     tradeoffs and are willing to provide some
                     private information in exchange for an
                     economic/social benefit.

Bloom, Milne,        Legal and societal problems associated
and Adler (1994)     with each technology should be assessed
                     before adopting them. Four case studies
                     are identified and discussed to address the
                     four problems of misuse, i.e., Airline Ta-
                     riff Recording System, Microsoft, TRW,
                     and Blockbuster Video.

Culnan (1995)        Consumers who are unaware of name re-
                     moval procedures tend to be young, poor,
                     less educated, African-American, mail
                     shoppers, and less likely to be concerned
                     about privacy than consumers who are
                     aware of name removal procedures.

Taylor, Vassar,      Marketers and consumers differed signifi-
and Vaught           cantly in terms of the role government
(1995)               should play in the regulation of privacy.
                     Direct marketers find it more unacceptable
                     to buy and sell consumers' information
                     without consent than members of AMA
                     and purchasing managers. Most marketers
                     believed that the use of ANI without con-
                     sent is unethical and an invasion of priva-

Lally (1996)         Situationally conditioned beliefs (SCB)
                     cause a difference in beliefs about infor-
                     mation accessibility and privacy. A tech-
                     nique called information exchange is
                     proposed as a way of closing the SCB gap
                     in business and market transactions.

Campbell (1997)      While both marketers and consumers are
                     concerned about the uses of consumer
                     information, they tend to focus on differ-
                     ent aspects of information privacy. Con-
                     sumers focus on potential abuses of their
                     information by marketers, whereas marke-
                     ters focus on the potential benefits to con-
                     sumers from better targeting.

Nowak and            Increasing consumers' information know-
Phelps (1997)        ledge and control reduces the significance
                     of privacy related issues. Direct marketers
                     should routinely inform consumers when
                     individual-specific information is col-
                     lected, how the information will be used,
                     and who will have access to the data. By
                     doing so, consumers' appropriation, dis-
                     closure, and false light concerns would be
                     diminished, while the accuracy of marke-
                     ters' database would be enhanced.

Thomas and           Privacy protection requires legislation.
Maurer (1997)        There is no competitive incentive for firms
                     to protect consumer privacy. This is due to
                     the fact that the interests of the parties to a
                     sale of database information are asymme-
                     trical. Likewise, database agencies are
                     unlikely to enhance consumer privacy
                     because such actions are costly and pro-
                     duce no increase in value.

Sheehan and          Correlations were found between online
Hoy (1999)           privacy concerns and hypothesized beha-
                     viors. As privacy concerns increase, res-
                     pondents were more likely to provide
                     incomplete information, complain to ISPs,
                     request to be removed from mailing lists,
                     and send a negative message ("flame") to
                     unsolicited online messengers.

Culnan and           Procedural justice is an intermediary to
Armstrong            building trust with customers. Customers
(1999)               are willing to disclose personal informa-
                     tion when there are fair procedures in
                     place to protect privacy.

Introna and Pou-     It is impossible for stakeholders to sepa-
loudi (1999)         rate their interests and values when mak-
                     ing privacy judgments (i.e., access
                     principle). When claims of priva-
                     cy/transparency are considered, all stake-
                     holders must be present (i.e., represent-
                     ation principle). All stakeholders ought to
                     be able to have equal power when making
                     claims of privacy/transparency (i.e., power

Milne and Boza       Building trust is more effective than trying
(1999)               to reduce consumer concern. Consumers
                     who trust their organizations attribute it to
                     experience, reputation, contractual issues,
                     and regulation.

Sheehan (1999)       Gender differences were found in attitudes
                     toward privacy. Women are more con-
                     cerned than men about the impact of in-
                     formation gathering on privacy. When
                     men do become concerned, they are more
                     likely to adopt protective behaviors than

Caudill and          What is considered public information is
Murphy (2000)        growing and what is considered private
                     information is shrinking with the increase
                     use of the Internet. Ethically, power and
                     responsibility should be in equilibrium.
                     Whichever party has more power has the
                     responsibility to ensure trust and confi-
                     dence in the other party.

Culnan (2000)        It was found that 92.8% of the Web sites
                     studied collected some form of personal
                     information. Almost 66% posted some
                     type of privacy disclosure. Of the Web
                     sites that collected personal information,
                     89.9% include one element of notice,
                     61.9% contained one element of choice,
                     40.3% contained one element of access,
                     45.8% contained one element of security.
                     Only 13.6% contained all five elements.

Milberg, Smith,      A country's regulations concerning con-
and Burke            sumer privacy are affected by its cultural
(2000)               values. Self-regulation of privacy by firms
                     may not be a sustainable model over time.

Milne (2000)         Privacy is a concern in four marketer-
                     consumer information interactions: 1) in-
                     formation requests and disclosure, 2) in-
                     formation provision, 3) information
                     capturing without consent, and 4) informa-
                     tion uses. Giving consumers more know-
                     ledge and control over information
                     exchanges provides greater privacy protec-

Milne and Rohm       Preference for name removal varied by
(2000)               direct channel type, consumer privacy
                     state, channel-specific purchase expe-
                     rience, and consumer demographics. The
                     study also found that despite self-
                     regulation, many consumers are neither
                     aware of data collection efforts nor know-
                     ledgeable or name removal mechanisms.

Miyazaki and         Results indicate that only 23% of the sites
Fernandez            offered some type of customer identifica-
(2000)               tion policy, 33% offered an unsolicited
                     contact policy, and 29% offered an infor-
                     mation sharing policy. In terms of securi-
                     ty, 50% offered secure transactions, 6%
                     offered a security guarantee, and 48% of-
                     fered alternative ordering processes. An
                     additional consumer survey found a posi-
                     tive relationship between online priva-
                     cy/security statements and consumer
                     purchase behavior.

Petty (2000)         Privacy includes the right to be free from
                     unwanted marketing solicitations because
                     of the costs that they impose. Privacy, as
                     well as economic efficiency, would be
                     enhanced by requiring marketers to inter-
                     nalize the consumer costs of collecting and
                     using consumer information.

Phelps, Nowak,       On average, consumers are more willing
and Ferrell          to provide firms demographic and lifestyle
(2000)               information and less willing to provide
                     financial and personal identifiers. 45% of
                     respondents were very concerned about
                     the use of their information by firms and
                     the vast majority desire more control over
                     what firms do with their information. It
                     was also found that there is a positive rela-
                     tionship between information control and
                     purchase intentions.

Sheehan and          The fair information practices address
Hoy (2000)           many of online consumers' privacy con-
                     cerns. It was also found that privacy con-
                     cerns vary by the context, that established
                     relationships between the firm and the
                     customer lessen privacy concerns, and that
                     online customers try to balance the infor-
                     mation they give with what is being re-

Phelps,              Consumers' attitudes towards direct mar-
D' Souza,and         keting are negatively related to privacy
Nowak (2001)         concerns and the desire for information
                     control is positively related to privacy
                     concerns. In turn, privacy concerns are
                     negatively related to the purchase decision
                     process and purchase behavior.

Carroll (2002)       There are no specific laws prohibiting
                     such sales. Advice for solvent Internet
                     companies: provide explicit details outlining
                     the sale of consumers? personal information,
                     adhere to the privacy policies, and
                     hire privacy officers.

Charters (2002)      Although electronic monitoring always
                     constitutes an invasion of privacy, it can
                     be ethically justified using both Utilitarian
                     and Kantian ethical theories. Despite this,
                     it is recommended that the industry move
                     to a user control model in electronic moni-

Milne and Cul-       The number of Web sites that posted pri-
nan (2002)           vacypolicies increased from 1998 to
                     2001, though the posting of information
                     practices decreased in 2001. The number
                     of Web sites that provided the FIPs of
                     notice, choice, and security increased over
                     the four years. Although the data was in-
                     complete, the number of Web sites that
                     provided access appeared to decrease. It
                     was also found that the more popular Web
                     sites were more likely to post privacy dis-
                     closures based on the FIPs than the gener-
                     al population of web sites.

Rust, Kannan,        As the cost of obtaining and processing
and Peng (2002)      information decreases, the amount of pri-
                     vacy will decline over time and privacy
                     will be increasingly expensive to maintain.
                     Although a market for privacy will
                     emerge, enabling customers to purchase a
                     certain degree of privacy, the overall
                     amount of privacy and privacy-based cus-
                     tomer utility will continue to erode.

Culnan and Bies      Creating willingness in consumers to dis-
(2003)               close personal information requires an
                     exchange based on a fair social contract.
                     Fairness is evaluated by the consumer in
                     terms of distributive, procedural, and inte-
                     ractional justice. One way to provide a fair
                     social contract is to follow the fair infor-
                     mation practices (FIPs), which balance
                     consumer privacy concerns and firms'
                     ability to operate efficiently in the market-

Dommeyer and         Consumers were found to have very little
Gross (2003)         knowledge of direct marketing practices
                     and regulations. While consumers were
                     fairly well informed on privacy protection
                     strategies, their use was quite low. Males
                     and younger people are more likely to be
                     aware of privacy protection strategies.
                     Young people, along with those who had a
                     negative attitude towards direct marketing
                     solicitations, were most likely to use pri-
                     vacy protection strategies.

Hoy and Phelps       The vast majority (99%) of church Web
(2003)               sites collected personal identifying infor-
                     mation (including that of children and
                     teenagers), but only 3% posted a privacy
                     policy. I was also found that only 36%
                     collected information over a secure server,
                     13% provided notice, and 2% provided
                     some form of choice. The results show
                     that nonprofit church Web sites provide
                     significantly less privacy protection than
                     do commercial Web sites. In addition,
                     these sites often post more personally
                     identifying information than commercial
                     Web sites.

O'Connor             Analysis of the privacy policies of the 30
(2003)               largest international hotels revealed that
                     only 25% fully complied with the global
                     privacy protection principles, 69% partial-
                     ly complied, and only 7% failed to comply
                     with any of the principles. Omissions were
                     found mostly in terms of choice, security,
                     and integrity.

Sarathy and Ro-      Privacy strategy should be arrived at by
bertson (2003)       considering a multiplicity of factors.
                     While the firm's ethical framework is im-
                     portant, environmental context and firm
                     factors should also be considered. Like-
                     wise, the firm should listen to and incorpo-
                     rate concerns of their customers, the
                     government, and society. The final privacy
                     protection strategy should be both ethical
                     and pragmatic, and tailored to the firm's
                     specific context and situation.

Milne and Cul-       Reading online privacy notices is related
nan (2004)           to privacy concern, positive perceptions
                     about notice comprehension, and higher
                     levels of trust in the notice. Reading priva-
                     cy notices is one way that consumers
                     manage the risk of disclosing personal
                     information online.

Zwick and Dho-       Current consumer strategies (i.e., identi-
lakia (2004)         fiability, anonymity/pseudonymity, confi-
                     dentiality, and secrecy) of exerting control
                     over their identities and privacy in the
                     electronic marketplace are ineffective.
                     These strategies are based that the con-
                     sumer self is ontologically distinct from its
                     digital representation. In the electronic
                     age, the consumer does not exist outside
                     the language governing the electronic
                     marketspace. Consumers can only regain
                     control over their identities if they are giv-
                     en direct access to companies' customer

Pollach (2005)       Corporate privacy policies obfuscate, en-
                     hance unethical data handling practices,
                     and use persuasive appeals to influence
                     consumers' trust in the company. Privacy
                     policies need to be written in a more
                     transparent and responsible manner.

Sheehan (2005)       The vast majority (94%) of DTC drug
                     sites posted a link to a privacy poli-
                     cy/statement. Although most of the sites
                     provided notice, they had poor compliance
                     with the other three. The average readabil-
                     ity score of the privacy policies was far
                     above the suggested eight-grade level.
                     Despite this, many of the visitors tried to
                     read the privacy policies before providing
                     information to DTC drug Web sites.

Ashworth and         Theories of procedural and distributive
Free (2006)          justice suggest that consumers respond to
                     perceived privacy violations as being simi-
                     lar to an unfair exchange. In terms of dis-
                     tributive justice, consumers are likely to
                     evaluate the fairness of an information
                     exchange in terms of the distribution of
                     outcomes. In terms of procedural justice,
                     consumers are likely to judge the manner
                     in which they are treated in determining
                     how much information to provide in the

Bowie and Jamal      The use of web seals by firms has been
(2006)               effective in signaling privacy protection to
                     online consumers. In order for privacy
                     seals to be most effective, they should
                     follow certain minimum standards for pri-
                     vacy protection. Formal state mandated
                     privacy regulation is not recommended.

Eastlick, Lotz,      Results showed that privacy concerns in-
and Warrington       fluenced purchase intent with strong nega-
(2006)               tive effects, both directly and indirectly
                     through trust. No effect of choice strate-
                     gies on privacy concerns were found, nor
                     was it found that choice strategies mod-
                     erated the effect of reputation on privacy
                     concerns or trust.

Milne, Culnan,       Results indicate that the readability level
and Green            of privacy policies had increased between
(2006)               2001 and 2003. The average length of the
                     notices increased by more than 500 words
                     between 2001 and 2003. In 2003, it was
                     found that the longer notices were also
                     less readable. The findings also showed
                     that privacy notices with privacy seals are
                     more readable than those without privacy
                     seals, and that the average reading level of
                     privacy policies increased over time across
                     industry sectors.

Lwin, Wirtz, and     Results from two experiments indicate that
Williams (2007)      1) the weaker the perceived company pri-
                     vacy policy, the higher the degree of pri-
                     vacy concern and use of protective
                     strategies, 2) the weaker the perceived
                     government online privacy regulation, the
                     higher the degree of privacy concern and
                     use of protective strategies, 3) a strong
                     company privacy policy is effective in
                     reducing consumer privacy concern when
                     low sensitivity data is collected, but insuf-
                     ficient when high sensitivity data is col-
                     lected, and 4) consumer privacy concern
                     increased dramatically when the collection
                     of sensitive data was inconsistent with the
                     business context.

Future Consumer Privacy Research Recommendations

Theoretical Issues           Key Tasks

1. Operationalizing          * Define the domain of consumer privacy.
Consumer Privacy
                             * Operationalize (a) Knowledge and
                             (b) Control--the two key components of
                             consumer privacy.

                             * Identify and operationalize the
                             elements of the FIPs.

                             * Identify relevant components outside
                             the FIPs.

                             * Develop constructs to capture both
                             objective and perceptual constructs of
                             consumer privacy.

                             * Identify the inter-relationships
                             between different dimensions of consumer

2. Competing Consumer        * Identify and measure the trade-offs
Rights                       consumers are willing to make between
                             different rights.

                             * Identify the personal, corporate, and
                             environmental factors that impact the
                             trade-offs consumers make.

                             * Define information ownership.

                             * Identify the factors that intensify or
                             mitigate claims of information ownership.

3. Ethical Dimensions of     * Test the relationships between firms'
Consumer Privacy             ethical practices concerning consumer
                             privacy and the consumer perception
                             of these practices.

                             * Empirically examine which ethical
                             frameworks (e.g., teleology, deontology,
                             justice theory, social contract theory)
                             are  best applicable to explaining
                             consumer privacy.

4. Strategy of Consumer      * Examine how firms can embrace privacy
Privacy                      protection as a strategic choice.

                             * Examine the process of institutiona-
                             lizing consumer privacy protection in a

                             * Develop metrics for measuring the
                             effectiveness of privacy officers.

                             * Longitudinal assessment of the impact of
                             privacy protection on customer retention
                             and loyalty.

                             * Test the viability of using privacy
                             protection as a positioning platform.

                             * Test and compare different modes of
                             communicating privacy policies.

Contemporary Practice        Key Tasks

1. Identity Theft            * Examine the impact of identity theft on
                             the future consumer behavior of victims.

                             * Examine the behaviors of consumers who
                             perceive themselves to be at low-risk of
                             identity theft.

                             * Examine the role of third parties (e.g.,
                             trade associations and information
                             brokers) in dealing with identity theft.

2. Online Behavior           * Examine if there has been a fundamental
                             shift in consumers' privacy expectations,
                             especially as a function of the Internet.

                             * Examine the broader societal effects of
                             consumer online information practices.

3. Consumer Profiling        * Examine the optimal ways for firms to
                             manage customer relationships without
                             being too invasive.

                             * Examine the differences in sensitivity
                             to privacy issues between business-to-
                             business and business-to-consumer

4. New Technology            * Examine the (possible) effects of RFID
Surveillance                 on consumer behavior.

                             * Examine the extent of acceptance of
                             biometric systems in marketing.

5. Other Privacy Issues      * Examine if individuals' workplace
                             privacy perceptions influence their
                             privacy expectations in the
                             consumer market.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Lanier, Clinton D., Jr.; Saini, Amit
Publication:Academy of Marketing Science Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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