DOI: 10.5176/2382-5642_FSCR14.22

Authors: Raymond Hsieh

Abstract: If potential purchasers feel apprehensive about the privacy and security of their online transactions, especially the identity theft, they will not make purchases. Online purchasing decisions critically depend upon the consumer’s willingness to trust the online merchant. As a result, online retailers (or e-tailers) not only must analyze carefully the perceived security of their online purchasing systems, but they must also develop privacy policies to address consumer concerns. Equally important, online merchants must effectively communicate their policies to potential customers so as to allay their fears about providing information to the vendor.
As criminal justice researchers, we were skeptical that these posted policies directly and effectively addressed the critical concerns of online shoppers. We hypothesized that online privacy and security statements would be fraught with the language of system security and legal privacy protection rather than the language of consumer concerns. To test this proposition, we first surveyed 387 persons and identified their online privacy and security concerns using an open-ended format. Next, we downloaded 500 privacy/security policies posted on the Internet by online vendors. Finally, in order to assess the degree of correspondence between policy language and the language of users themselves, we content-analyzed the texts from both samples and then constructed a perceptual mapping for each. Based upon a comparison of the two samples, and drawing upon script and schema theories, we offer recommendations for ensuring that online privacy/security statements effectively address consumers’ fears regarding the safety and appropriate use of their private information.

Keywords: cyber security; online policy;trust; e-Commerce

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