Delphi Study Considers Risk to Individuals Who Disclose Personal Information Online

A Delphi survey carried out by Dr. Lyn Robinson, Head of Department and Reader in Library and Information Science at City, University of London, and Dr. David Haynes, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in City’s Department of Library and Information Science, has revealed priorities for protecting personal privacy online.

Their research study, “Delphi study of risk to individuals who disclose personal information online“, published in the Journal of Information Science, was conducted at City in 2019, and is based on the views of a panel of privacy and information security experts.

A literature review, published between 2014 and 2019 provided a corpus of 69 research articles from peer-reviewed journals covering recent research into information privacy risk.

The articles were categorized using a cluster analysis based on Pearson’s correlation coefficient to identify the main research themes.

Statements extracted from the articles were tested by questions put to an expert panel to identify future research priorities, grouped under the headings of Personalisation (Do intelligent user interfaces need to acquire rich information about users in order to be effective? How intrusive are personal ads and does that intrusiveness outweigh the benefits?); Social networks (How much information about individuals is revealed by the online activity of their associates such as connections on social media? Is there a way of detecting whether information about an individual revealed by a social media connection is misleading or incorrect?); Risk assessment (What is the relationship between connectedness and risk of online harm?) and Regulation; (Who should primarily be responsible for maintaining the privacy of social media users – the individual or the service provider? What are users’ attitudes to different modes of privacy regulation – based on Lessig’s model?)

The expert panel was also asked about their own attitudes to privacy harm and ranked financial loss and cyberbullying as the top two issues. They ranked online stalking, advertising intrusion and filtering of content as mid-ranking issues. These also feed into a view of the priorities for further research into online privacy.

The Delphi survey is a useful tool for identifying priority areas for further investigation extracted from a much longer list of research topics.

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