Social Status and the Demand for Security and Privacy

  • Jens Grossklags
  • Nigel J. Barradale
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8555)


High-status decision makers are often in a position to make choices with security and privacy relevance not only for themselves but also for groups, or even society at-large. For example, decisions about security technology investments, anti-terrorism activities, and domestic security, broadly shape the balance between security and privacy. However, it is unclear to what extent the mass of individuals share the same concerns as high-status individuals. In particular, it is unexplored in the academic literature whether an individual’s status position shapes one’s security and privacy concerns.

The method of investigation used is experimental, with 146 subjects interacting in high- or low-status assignments and the subsequent change in the demand for security and privacy being related to status assignment with a significant t-statistic up to 2.9, depending on the specification. We find that a high-status assignment significantly increases security concerns. This effect is observable for two predefined sub-dimensions of security (i.e., personal and societal concerns) as well as for the composite measure. We find only weak support for an increase in the demand for privacy with a low-status manipulation.

We complement these results with a second experiment on individuals’ time preferences with 120 participants. We show that the high-status manipulation is correlated with increased patience, i.e., those individuals exhibit more robust long-term appreciation of decisions. Given that many security and privacy decisions have long-term implications and delayed consequences, our results suggest that high-status decision makers are less likely to procrastinate on important security investments, and are more likely to account for future risks appropriately. The opposite applies to privacy and low-status roles.


Privacy Security Social status Time Preferences Experiment Laboratory 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Grossklags
    • 1
  • Nigel J. Barradale
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Information Sciences and TechnologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of FinanceCopenhagen Business SchoolDenmark

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