Email, Companies and Social Norms



I wanted to make note of an interesting anomaly in a new survey that looks at Americans’ attitudes toward the privacy issues implicated by the use of mobile phones to pay for things (instead of cash or a credit card).

The survey (which is online here and is summarized by the New York Times here) finds that Americans react very negatively to the kinds of privacy invasions that mobile payments can bring.

But as the report authors (Chris Hoofnagle, Jennifer Urban and Su Li) write, “While opposition to information sharing at the register is strong in all categories we analyzed, email sharing seems to be the least sensitive category.” While 80 percent and more of respondents objected to sharing other personal information such as home addresses, telephone numbers, or store browsing activity, for some reason opposition to the sharing of email addresses was noticeably weaker, with 33 percent “probably” or “definitely” willing to allow it.

I think it’s interesting to ask the question of why this would be.