Do Privacy Notices Matter? Comparing the Impact of Violating Formal Privacy Notices and Informal Privacy Norms on Consumer Trust Online

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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. Further, violating informal privacy norms negatively impacts trust in the website even when the information exchange conforms to or is not mentioned in the privacy notice. The results suggest that respecting privacy norms is key to trust online and challenge the reliance on privacy notices to maintain consumer trust. The consumer, who is the exchange partner most vulnerable to information asymmetries and uncertainty, is not a party to the development of the formal privacy contract and instead relies on informal privacy norms.

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