Digital privacy

The failure to use personal information fairly or responsibly may raise two kinds of information privacy concerns. First, an individual’s privacy may be invaded if unauthorized access is gained to personal information as a result of a security breach or an absence of appropriate internal controls. Second, because computerized information may be easily duplicated and shared, there is the risk of unauthorized secondary use of the data. That is, information provided for one purpose may be reused for unrelated purposes without the individual’s knowledge or consent. Secondary use includes sharing personal information with others who were not a part of the original transaction, with or without commercial goal; or the merging of transaction and demographic data to create a computerized profile of an individual by the organization that originally collected the information.

Serious concerns have arisen in the past months over how social media firms guard the privacy of their users’ personal data, and how the analytics of such data can influence voter preferences and turnout. Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, had unauthorized access to more than 50 million Facebook profiles and micro-targeted voters to benefit Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. This scandal is a case of unauthorized secondary use, where organizations make deliberate choices about reuse of their customers’ personal information, which was done without customers’ consent. That’s why users consider disclosing personal information to be a risky choice, because they become vulnerable to a company’s potential opportunistic behaviors.

In a recent study, we investigated the effects of social retargeting, a combination of behavioral targeting and social targeting. Behavioral targeting readdresses consumers with personalized ads based on their external browsing information, whereas social targeting makes use of consumers’ social connections. In this study, we conducted a large-scale randomized field experiment in collaboration with a major European e-retailer on Facebook’s advertising platform. We randomly assigned 198,234 individual consumers to one of two types of ads with different levels of ad personalization: category-specific and product-specific ad personalisation.


D. Tsekouras, T.W. Frick & T. Li (2016). Don’t Take It Personally: The Effect of Explicit Targeting in Advertising Personalization. In International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2016) . Dublin: AIS