The impact of reading a web site’s
privacy statement on perceived
control over privacy and
bec a Montre
La Rochelle, France, and
Bell Canada, Montre
Purpose – The purpose of this research is to study the impact of reading a web site’s privacy
statement on the perceptions of control over privacy and trust in a cyber merchant.
Design/methodology/approach – Two experiments were designed to monitor the actual reading
of the privacy statement. Study one compares the inﬂuence of actual reading with self-reported claims.
Study two manipulated the format of the privacy statement (opt-in or opt-out) and included a control
condition to assess the inﬂuence of the presence of a privacy statement and the inﬂuence of the format
on the dependent variables.
Findings – The ﬁndings show that the mere presence of a privacy statement has a positive inﬂuence
on perceived control. However, reading the privacy statement does not necessarily have a positive
inﬂuence on perceived control and trust, contrary to commonly held assumptions. Participants who
read the opt-in format felt signiﬁcantly more control and trust than the participants who read the
opt-out format. The opt-out format decreases perceived control compared with the group that did not
read the privacy statement when it was available.
Research limitations/implications – The sample size for both experiments was relatively modest,
which limits the generalisability of the ﬁndings.
Practical implications – Cyber merchants should devote particular attention to the strategic role of
the format of the privacy statement.
Originality/value – In contrast to other studies that relied on surveys, this paper assesses the
impact of the actual reading of the privacy statement via an experimental approach. Moreover, the
impact of the format of the privacy statement has been empirically tested.
Keywords Electronic commerce, Privacy, Trust, Online operations, Internet
Paper type Research paper
In the ﬁrst half of 2006, USA web retailers sold $49.3 billion worth of products
(excluding online travel and event tickets), representing a 24.2 per cent rise over online
sales in the same period last year (E-Marketer, 2006a). In 2005, online shopping in the
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Reading a web
Refereed article received
2 April 2007
Revision approved for
publication 21 June 2007
Online Information Review
Vol. 31 No. 5, 2007
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited