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Striking a balance: An application of gatekeeping theory to the issue of Internet privacy

, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . Awarded


There exists a need to strike a balance between Internet users' desire for privacy and Web marketers' need for access to personal information about Internet users to build customer profiles in order to efficiently market goods and services. Web marketers have used personalization, the art and science of dynamically altering content on web sites according to the individual preferences, to draw out personally identifiable information from Internet users for use in customer profiling. Despite promises of privacy protection issued in policy statements by Web marketers, the majority of Internet users remain concerned about the privacy of personally identifiable information collected during profiling.

This dissertation builds a boundary-control based model of informational privacy which can be used to describe how Internet users manage the release of their personally identifiable information in the face of profiling pressures from Web marketers. Informational privacy has been defined as a decision mechanism individuals use to balance the level of privacy desired for personally identifiable information with the level of privacy achieved while dealing with Web marketers. Gatekeeping theory describes decision processes associated with information flow between individuals provides a framework for understanding how individuals manage the boundary between desired and achieved privacy levels.

A Hypothetical Online Privacy Gatekeeping Process Model was designed to examine the underling factors of boundary-control process occurring among American Internet users. The model theorizes that Internet users adjust the release of personally identifiable information based on the influence of personal privacy experiences and market forces. An online survey was conducted among 389 American Internet users to explore the model. Multiple regression analysis was used to identify the relevant dimension of the model. Results of the survey indicated, that when deciding to release information to Web marketers, Internet users looked for a notice that information was being collected, a choice as to whether or not to provide the information, access to their information, a promise of secure storage for the information, a means to enforce the marketer's promises, control over the information once released, and the offer of personalization services.


Brown, W.S. Striking a balance: An application of gatekeeping theory to the issue of Internet privacy. Ph.D. thesis, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved October 23, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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