Expecting Collective Privacy: A New Perspective on Trust in Online Communication

Part of the Progress in IS book series (PROIS)


Digitization has opened unprecedented opportunities for online communication. In contrast to face-to-face communication, online communication often involves large audiences that consist of other social media users (network audience) but also of governmental and private institutions (institutional audiences). Consequently, how users manage their privacy is a key component of digital literacy. Interestingly, users’ privacy-management behaviors may largely be influenced by trust. Here, we argue that traditional conceptualizations of dyadic trust cannot adequately explain this aspect of online communication and therefore need to be extended. Thus, we suggest that when communicating online, users act in a default trust mode based on their trust in collective privacy: users experience a common online phenomenon, such as information overload, and might project this experience onto other users. As such, they might assume that other users also have limited capacities to process all incoming content. As a consequence, users may expect collective privacy; namely, that their disclosed information is not actively processed by large audiences because it is surrounded by so much other “noise”. Moreover, this expectation may take the shape of a stable subjective theory, thereby shaping all privacy-related perceptions and behaviors. We discuss theoretical and empirical evidence for these arguments, as well as their implications for digital privacy regulation.


Collective privacy Default trust Online communication Audience expectations Self-disclosure 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MünsterMünsterGermany

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