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University of Passau

Gut Feelings with Regard to Data Disclosure

Exploring the Moment When Users Decide to Disclose Their Data
Author: Kathrin Haimerl,

Researchers are generally regarded as rational people. However, their research occasionally makes them aware of their own irrationality. This is what happened to the information-systems specialist Philipp Sleziona and the marketing researcher Alina Grüner when they were familiarizing themselves with the literature relating to their project. “I was most surprised by sociopsychological studies and experiments on decision-making. Until then, I really thought that I behave relatively logically,” says Sleziona. Grüner reports: “Since then, I have been much more cautious and have thought more deeply about the decision of when and how I disclose data and which data I disclose.”

Research into the Effects of Data Exchange in Business Networks

Sleziona and Grüner are doctoral candidates at two different chairs in the Faculty of Business, Economics and Information Systems at the University of Passau. However, they are conducting interdisciplinary research as part of a joint project, namely the DFG project “BNDE – Beyond the Dyad: Effects of Business Network Data Exchange on the Privacy Calculus.” BNDE stands for Business Network Data Exchange—i.e., for the increasingly common practice whereby companies share customer data with other companies. Professor Jan Schumann, holder of the Chair of Marketing and Innovation, and Professor Thomas Widjaja, holder of the Chair of Business Information Systems, are managing the project together.

We aim to better understand how the decision-making process occurs, what drives it, and how business models need to be designed and communicated so that consumers can make better decisions.
Prof. Thomas Widjaja, holder of the Chair of Business Information Systems, University of Passau

Modern technology allows companies to comprehensively collect and analyze customer data. They are also increasingly exchanging this data with other companies. One example of this would be the music streaming service Spotify, which uses user data in a corporate network of advertisers, concert providers, and other third-party companies. However, traditional sectors, such as the automotive and aviation industry and the retail sector, are also developing business models that are based on the exchange and exploitation of consumer data.

Video: The Privacy Calculus Approach

How Data Exchange in Company Networks Influences User's decisions to Disclose Their Data

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Research has established the privacy calculus approach to account for the moment of decision. This video explains what it is all about.

The theory of privacy calculus reaches its limits in the era of data exchange in business networks. This is where the research by Sleziona and Grüner comes in. They want to better understand how the customers’ decision-making process occurs and what drives it. “This may, for example, be their motivation, conditioned by the circumstances in which the decision is made,” says Grüner. She explains this using the example of a flashlight app: “If I am out and about on my own in the dark and am urgently looking for something, then, I might be highly motivated to disclose my data in this moment.” According to her, value alignment—i.e., the relationship between the data and service—also plays a role: “When I purchase a shirt or a blouse, it is clear to me that I will be asked for data about my size, weight, and girth.” However, this is not the case with the flashlight app.

Transparency Does Not Always Lead to Better Decisions

In the project, Grüner is concentrating on the angle of marketing. Here, the young researcher can fall back upon the chair’s findings from past experiments. For example, the team led by Professor Schumann proved that transparency regarding business processes does not always help customers to make more rational decisions. “On the contrary. The more complex the process behind it, the more pronounced the affective decision-making behavior,” says Professor Schumann.

Grüner is already familiar with the chair due to her employment as a student assistant. During her master's thesis in which she investigated the strategic positioning of data-driven start-ups against established companies, she enjoyed research work: "I found joy generating added value."

The information-systems specialist Sleziona joined the team from the outside. He moved from Stuttgart to Passau in December 2020, shortly before the lockdown. In his case, it was the subject and the interdisciplinary approach that appealed to him: “The question of data disclosure is omnipresent. We are constantly using applications in which we send data. It is exciting to investigate this process from various perspectives.”

International Digital Communication on the Subject of the Platform Economy

Sleziona’s mission is to use the findings on decision-making to infer characteristics for how business networks should be structured so that they are accepted by customers. However, the young researcher is keeping an eye on the customer’s perspective, as well as the company’s: “The goal is to develop concepts so that consumers can make better decisions in such complex situations.”

The pandemic has made the arrival in his new city more difficult for him. Sleziona and Grüner do meet regularly on Zoom to exchange ideas. “But we are currently unable to talk to one another directly in the corridor, which is what often leads to the best ideas,” he reports.

Spontaneous affective reactions to such business models, or—to put it simply—gut feelings, are likely to play a major role in decision-making.
Prof. Jan Schumann, holder of the Chair of Marketing and Innovation, University of Passau

In spite of this, however, international digital communication at the University of Passau on the subject of the platform economy is set to become all the more lively this summer semester: an interdisciplinary team of researchers, including Professor Schumann and Professor Widjaja, has organized a public lecture series on the subject of “Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE).” Guests from all over the world will tune into Passau for a Zoom webinar in order to report their latest research findings and discuss them with the next generation of researchers.

PassauDPE: Public lecture series on“Digital Platform Ecosystems

The digital economy is dominated by large platforms such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. What consequences does this have for the economy and society? In the English-language lecture series “Digital Platform Ecosystems (DPE),” an interdisciplinary team from the University of Passau, led by the information-systems specialist Professor Jan Krämer and the innovation researcher Professor Andreas König, brings internationally outstanding scholars to Passau digitally via a Zoom webinar.  The subjects of the lectures range from the regulation of digital platforms and their socioeconomic benefits to the question of whether and how Twitter is changing voting behavior. The lectures will take place on Mondays and Thursdays at 4 p.m. in the summer semester.

Event website and registration

Planned lectures:

Monday, 17th May, 4 p.m.
Professor Edward Anderson, University of Texas, USA
“Business-to-business platforms: Revolutionizing the supply chain”

Monday, 31st May, 4 p.m.
Professor Ingmar Weber, Qatar Computing Research Institute, Qatar
“Collected for profit, repurposed for social good: Using advertising data to monitor international development”

Monday, 7th June, 4 p.m.
Professor Mark de Reuver, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
“Governance of data platforms: Rethinking platform openness in the data economy”

Thursday, 17th June, 4 p.m.
Professor Jens Prüfer, Tilburg University Delft, The Netherlands, and member of the EU expert group on online platforms

“Mandatory data sharing on data-driven platform markets: Why, when, and how?”

Monday, 21st June, 4 p.m.
Professor Hemant Bhargava, University of California, USA
“Platform ecosystems with external value creators: Supply, revenue-sharing, and platform design”

Monday, 28th June, 4 p.m.
Professor Philip Leifeld, University of Essex, Great Britain
“Policy networks, discourse networks, and the regulation of digital platforms”

Thursday, 1st July, 4 p.m.
Professor Carlo Schwarz, Bocconi University, Italy
“The effect of social media on elections: Evidence from the United States”

Thursday, 22nd July, 4 p.m.
Professor Elizabeth J. Altman, Manning School of Business, University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA tbd.

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