Privacy Scholarship

Martin, K. 2020. Breaking the Privacy Paradox: The Value of Privacy and Associated Duty of Firms. Business Ethics Quarterly.

I specifically tackle the supposed ‘privacy paradox’ or perceived disconnect between individuals’ stated privacy expectations, as captured in surveys and consumer market behavior in going online: individuals purport to value privacy yet still disclose information to firms.  The privacy paradox is important for business ethics because the narrative of the privacy paradox defines the scope of corporate responsibility as quite narrow: firms have little to no responsibility to identify or respect privacy expectations if consumers are framed as relinquishing privacy online. However, contrary to the privacy paradox, I show consumers retain strong privacy expectations even after disclosing information in “Breaking the Privacy Paradox: The Value of Privacy and Associated Duty of Firms.” Privacy violations are valued akin to security violations in creating distrust in firms and in consumer (un)willingness to engage with firms. Where firms currently are framed as having, at most, a duty to not interfere with consumers choosing to relinquish privacy, this paper broadens the scope of corporate responsibility to suggest firms may have a positive obligation to identify reasonable expectations of privacy of individuals. In addition, research perpetuating the privacy paradox, through the mistaken framing of disclosure as proof of anti-privacy behavior, gives license to firms to act contrary to the interests of consumers.

Martin, K and Helen Nissenbaum. 2020. What is it about location?  Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 35(1).

In our third paper on privacy in public, Helen Nissenbaum and I specifically focus on the collection of location data in public spaces via different mechanisms, such as phones, fitbits, CCTV, apps, etc.  The paper, “What is it about location?”  reports on a set of empirical studies that reveal how people think about location data, how these conceptions relate to expectations of privacy, and, consequently, what this might mean for law, regulation, and technology design.  The results show that drawing inferences about an individuals’ location and identifying the ‘place’ where they are, significantly affect how appropriate people judge respective practices to be.  This means that tracking an individuals’ place – home, work, shopping – is seen to violate privacy, even without directly collecting GPS data.  In general, individuals have strong expectations of privacy – particular when data aggregators and data brokers are involved.   

Martin, K. 2019. Privacy, Trust, and Governance. Washington University Law Review 96(6).

Currently, we (including myself!) frame individuals online as in a series of exchanges with specific firms, and privacy, accordingly, is governed to ensure trust within those relationships. However, trusting a single firm is not enough; individuals must trust the hidden online data market in general. I explore how privacy governance should also be framed as protecting a larger market to ensure consumers trust being online in “Privacy, Trust, and Governance: Or are privacy violations akin to insider trading?”  I found that respondents judge uses of consumer data more appropriate if judged more within a generalized exchange (i.e., for the good of the community such as academic research) or within a reciprocal exchange (e.g., product search results) or both (credit security). However, most uses of data are deemed privacy violations and decrease institutional trust online.  Also, institutional trust online impacts a consumer’s willingness to engage with a specific online partner in a trust game experiment.  Interestingly, given the focus on privacy notices in the US, using privacy notices is the least effective governance mechanism whereas being subject to an audit was as effective as using anonymized data in improving consumer trust.  The findings have implications for public policy and practice. Uses of information online need not only be justified in a simple quid-pro-quo exchange with the consumer but could also be justified as appropriate for the online context within a generalized exchange. Second, if privacy violations hurt not only interpersonal consumer trust in a firm but also institutional trust online, then privacy would be governed similar to insider trading, fraud, or bribery—to protect the integrity of the market. Punishment for privacy violations would be set to ensure bad behavior is curtailed and institutional trust is maintained rather than to remediate a specific harm to an individual.


Martin, K. 2018.  The Penalty for Privacy Violations: How Privacy Violations Impact Trust Online. Journal of Business Research [IF 3.354] 82: 103-116.

A consistent theme in my work on privacy is the role of trust – e.g., as diminished with the use of privacy notices and as important to understanding privacy expectations in the mobile space.  I extend this work to examine privacy and trust generally in “The Penalty for Privacy Violations: How Privacy Violations Impact Trust Online,” and measure the relative importance of violating privacy expectations to consumers’ trust in a website. The findings suggest consumers find violations of privacy expectations, specifically the secondary uses of information, to diminish trust in a website.  Firms that violate privacy expectations are penalized twice: violations of privacy (1) impact trust directly and (2) diminish the importance of trust factors such as integrity and ability on trust.   In addition, consumers with greater technology savvy place greater importance on privacy factors than respondents with less knowledge. Violations of privacy may place firms in a downward trust spiral by decreasing not only trust in the website but also the impact of possible mechanisms to rebuild trust such as a firm’s integrity and ability.

Martin, K & Helen Nissenbaum. 2017. Privacy Interests in Public Records: An Empirical Investigation.  Harvard Journal of Law and Technology.

The focus of the study is on data that would be deemed public according to traditional approaches. The salient subcategory that we examine is data held in government public records, by definition deemed public and by parallel assumption deemed not worthy of privacy protection. Further the study, reports on a second series of studies in which we ask subjects to respond to questions about information deemed public, consequently deserving less privacy protection, or possibly not implicating privacy at all. Our work reveals normative judgments on the appropriate use and access of personal data in a broad array of public records, such as those of births, deaths, and marriages, as well as documented transactions with offices and government agencies.

Martin, K. 2017. Do Privacy Notices Matter? Comparing the impact of violating formal privacy notices and informal privacy norms on consumer trust online. Journal of Legal Studies. 

While privacy online is governed through formal privacy notices, little is known about the impact of privacy notices on trust online. I use a factorial vignette study to examine how the introduction of formal privacy governance (privacy notices) impacts consumer trust and compare the importance of respecting informal privacy norms versus formal privacy notices on consumer trust. The results show that invoking formal privacy notices decreases trust in a website.

Martin, K & Helen Nissenbaum. 2017. Measuring Privacy: An empirical examination of common privacy measures in context. Columbia Science and Technology Law Review.

Our studies aim to reveal systematic variation lurking beneath seemingly uniform responses in privacy surveys. To do so, we revisited two well-known privacy measurements that have shaped public discourse as well as policies and practices in their respective periods of greatest impact.

Shilton, K. & Martin, K.  Accepted.  Mobile Privacy Expectations in Context. The Information Society.

This paper reports on survey findings that identify contextual factors of importance in the mobile data ecosystem. Our survey demonstrated that overall, very common activities of mobile application companies such as harvesting and reusing location data, accelerometer readings, demographic data, contacts, keywords, name, images and friends do not meet users’ privacy expectations. But these differences are modulated by both information type and social context.

Martin, K2015.  Privacy Notices as Tabula Rasa- How consumers project expectations on privacy notices. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.

Recent privacy scholarship has focused on the failure of adequate notice and consumer choice as a tool to address consumers’ privacy expectations online. However, a direct examination of how complying with privacy notice is related to meeting privacy expectations online has not been performed. This paper reports the findings of an empirical examination of how judgments about privacy notices are related to privacy expectations. A factorial vignette study describing online consumer tracking asked respondents to rate the degree online scenarios met consumers’ privacy expectations or complied with a privacy notice. The results suggest respondents perceived the privacy notice as offering greater protections than the actual privacy notice. Perhaps most problematic, respondents projected the important factors of their privacy expectations onto the privacy notice. In other words, privacy notices became a tabula rasa for users’ privacy expectations.

Martin, K. 2015. Understanding Privacy Online: Development of a Social Contract Approach to Privacy. Journal of Business Ethics.

Recent scholarship in philosophy, law, and information systems suggests that respecting privacy entails understanding the implicit privacy norms about what, why, and to whom information is shared within specific relationships. These social contracts are important to understand if firms are to adequately manage the privacy expectations of stakeholders. ...

This paper explores a social contract approach to developing, acknowledging, and protecting privacy norms within specific contexts. While privacy as a social contract—a mutually beneficial agreement within a community about sharing and using information—has been introduced theoretically and empirically, the full impact on firms of an alternative framework to respecting the privacy expectations of stakeholders has not been examined. The goal of this paper is to examine how privacy norms develop through social contract’s narrative, to redescribe privacy violations given the social contract approach, and to critically examine the role of business as a contractor in developing privacy norms.

Martin, K. & Shilton, K.  Forthcoming. Why Experience Matters to Privacy- How Context-Based Experience Moderates Consumer Privacy Expectations for Mobile ApplicationsJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology

Analysis of the data suggests that experience using mobile applications did moderate the effect of individual preferences and contextual factors on privacy judgments. Experience changed the equation respondents used to assess whether data collection and use scenarios met their privacy expectations. Discovering the bridge between 2 dominant theoretical models enables future privacy research to consider both personal and contextual variables by taking differences in experience into account.

Martin, K. & Shilton, K.  Forthcoming.  Experience, Trust, and Privacy in Mobile Space. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology

Glac, K., Elm, D., & Martin, K. 2014. Areas of Privacy in Facebook: Expectations and valueBusiness and Professional Ethics Journal 33 (2/3), 147-176.

Privacy issues surrounding the use of social media sites have been ap- parent over the past ten years. Use of such sites, particularly Facebook, has been increasing and recently business organizations have begun using Facebook as a means of connecting with potential customers or clients. ...

This paper presents an empirical study of perceived privacy violations to examine factors that influence the expectations of privacy on Facebook. Results of the study suggest that the more im- portant Facebook is to users, the more likely they are to perceive privacy violations and the more likely those violations are to be considered serious. Furthermore, how information is used is more important than the way this information is accessed.

Martin, K. 2013. Transaction costs, privacy, and trust: The laudable goals and ultimate failure of notice and choice to respect privacy online. First Monday 18 (12). Lead Article.

The goal of this paper is to outline the laudable goals and ultimate failure of notice and choice to respect privacy online and suggest an alternative framework to manage and research privacy. ...

Importantly for firms, managing privacy in practice shifts the firm’s responsibility from adequate notice to identifying and managing the cost–benefit analysis within a specific context




Figure 2 illustrates the theoretical relationship between harms and benefits governing privacy in practice. Privacy scholarship suggests that individuals who develop privacy rules consider the magnitude of the harm, the probability of the harm being realized, and the expected benefits of sharing information.

Martin, K. 2012. Information technology and privacy: Conceptual muddles or privacy vacuums? Ethics and information technology 14 (4), 267-284.

Firms regularly require users, customers, and employees to shift existing relationships onto new information technology, yet little is known as about how technology impacts established privacy expectations and norms. This paper examines whether and how privacy expectations change based on the technological platform of an information exchange. ...

Individuals appear to have a shift in their privacy expectations but retain similar factors and their relative importance—the privacy equation by which they form judgments—across technologies. These findings suggest that privacy scholarship should make use of existing privacy norms within contexts when analyzing and studying privacy in a new technological platform. In sum, the findings suggest that novel technology may introduce temporary conceptual muddles rather than permanent privacy vacuums.


A general model of privacy expectations is developed by leveraging two areas of privacy scholarship focusing on (1) individual-specific base privacy concerns and (2) con- textually-defined privacy norms. Figure 1 depicts how base privacy concerns, contextually defined privacy norms, and privacy expectations fit within the larger picture of privacy research.


Figure 2 shows both Facebook scenarios—a Facebook Post and a Facebook Feed—as having a lower mean privacy expectation; respondents were more apt to rate information OK to Share on Facebook than other locations….While locating the exchange on Facebook—either as a Facebook Post or as a Facebook Feed—increases the probability that the information would be expected to be shared, locating the exchange on email does not follow this trend. The cumulative probability of email emulates the distribution for a verbally exchange in a private room.

Martin, K. 2012. Diminished or Just Different? A Factorial Vignette Study of Privacy as a Social Contract. Journal of Business Ethics. 11(4): 519-539.

A growing body of theory has focused on privacy as being contextually defined, where individuals have highly particularized judgments about the appropriateness of what, why, how, and to whom information flows within a specific context. Such a social contract understanding of privacy could produce more practical guidance for organizations and managers who have employees, users, and future customers all with possibly different conceptions of privacy across contexts. ...

However, this theoretical suggestion, while intuitively appealing, has not been empirically examined. This study validates a social contract approach to privacy by examining whether and how privacy norms vary across communities and contractors. The findings from this theoretical examination support the use of contractual business ethics to understand privacy in research and in practice. As predicted, insiders to a community had significantly different understandings of privacy norms as compared to outsiders. In addition, all respondents held different privacy norms across hypothetical contexts, thereby suggesting privacy norms are contextually understood within a particular community of individuals. The findings support two conclusions. First, individuals hold different privacy norms without necessarily having diminished expectations of privacy. Individuals differed on the factors they considered important in calculating privacy expectations, yet all groups had robust privacy expectations across contexts. Second, outsiders have difficulty in understanding the privacy norms of a particular community. For managers and scholars, this renders privacy expectations more difficult to identify at a distance or in deductive research. The findings speak directly to the needs of organizations to manage a diverse set of privacy issues across stakeholder groups.

Martin, K. 2011. TMI (Too Much Information)- The Role of Friction and Familiarity in Disclosing Information. Business and Professional Ethics Journal 30 (1/2), 1-32.

The goal of this study is to identify the norms of disclosing information: what do individuals take into consideration when disclosing information?  The findings show that an individual’s relationship to the recipient (familiarity) and the degree to which the information is protected from being easily transferred to others (friction) positively influence the odds that disclosure is judged to be within privacy expectations. ...

The results suggest a two pronged strategy for organizations targeting the disclosure of information by individuals inside and outside the organization: (1) taking into consideration the familiarity of the recipient and (2) increasing the information friction of the environment.


For high friction scenarios, the disclosure of information was more likely to be judged within privacy expectations and considered OK to Tell  compared to low friction scenarios, where the disclosure of information was deemed more Wrong to as illustrated in Figure 2.

Martin, K. 2010. Privacy Revisited- From Lady Godiva’s Peeping Tom to Facebook’s Beacon Program in D. Palmer (Ed.) Ethical Issues in E-Business: Models and Frameworks. IGI Global Publishers.

The underlying concept of privacy has not changed for centuries, but our approach to acknowledging privacy in our transactions, exchanges, and relationships must be revisited as our technological environment – what we can do with information – has evolved. The goal of this chapter is to focus on the debate over the definition of privacy as it is required for other debates and has direct implications to how we recognize, test, and justify privacy in scholarship and practice....

I argue privacy is best viewed as the ability of an individual to control information within a negotiated zone I illustrate this view of privacy through an analysis of Facebook‘s Beacon program and place the case in the context of both privacy violations and successful business strategies. I find privacy zones are illuminating for situations from 10th century England to current social networking programs and are useful in identifying mutually beneficial solutions among stakeholders.
 Martin, K. & Freeman, R.E. 2003. Some Problems with Employee Monitoring. Journal of Business Ethics 43:353-361.

Employee monitoring has raised concerns from all areas of society– business organizations, employee interest groups, privacy advocates, civil libertarians, lawyers, professional ethicists, and every combination possible. Each advocate has its own rationale for or against employee monitoring whether it be economic, legal, or ethical....

However, no matter what the form of reasoning, seven key arguments emerge from the pool of analysis. These arguments have been used equally from all sides of the debate. The purpose of this paper is to examine the seven key arguments that have been made with respect to employee monitoring. None of these arguments is conclusive and each calls for managerial and moral consideration. We conclude that a more comprehen- sive inquiry with ethical concern at the center is necessary to make further progress on understanding the complexity of employee monitoring. The final section of this paper sketches out how such an inquiry would proceed.