A methodology for estimating the value of privacy in information disclosure systems

Ron Hirschprung*, Eran Toch, Frank Bolton, Oded Maimon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In many types of information systems, users face an implicit tradeoff between disclosing personal information and receiving benefits, such as discounts by an electronic commerce service that requires users to divulge some personal information. While these benefits are relatively measurable, the value of privacy involved in disclosing the information is much less tangible, making it hard to design and evaluate information systems that manage personal information. Meanwhile, existing methods to assess and measure the value of privacy, such as self-reported questionnaires, are notoriously unrelated of real-world behavior. To overcome this obstacle, we propose a methodology called VOPE (Value of Privacy Estimator), which relies on behavioral economics' Prospect Theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) and valuates people's privacy preferences in information disclosure scenarios. VOPE is based on an iterative and responsive methodology in which users take or leave a transaction that includes a component of information disclosure. To evaluate the method, we conduct an empirical experiment (n = 195), estimating people's privacy valuations in electronic commerce transactions. We report on the convergence of estimations and validate our results by comparing the values to theoretical projections of existing results (Tsai, Egelman, Cranor, & Acquisti, 2011), and to another independent experiment that required participants to rank the sensitivity of information disclosure transactions. Finally, we discuss how information systems designers and regulators can use VOPE to create and to oversee systems that balance privacy and utility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-453
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Information disclosure
  • Online privacy
  • Privacy in electronic commerce
  • User study
  • Utility and privacy
  • Value of privacy


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