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Circumventing the hidden cost of free services: lessons learnt from social media resisters

Katrien Verleye UGent, Simon Quaschning and Arne De Keyser (2016) Frontiers in Service Conference 2016.
abstract
Over the past few years, many free services - such as online search engines and social networking platforms - have been introduced to the general public, which can generate meaningful and engaging experiences for users (Larivière, Joosten, Malthouse, van Birgelen, Aksoy, Kunz, and Huang, 2013). In recent year, several free service providers - such as Google and Facebook - moved from a free business model into a revenue generating model (Amit & Zott 2012, Kumar 2014) by - among others - launching ads and sharing users’ data with any third party. As a consequence of this shift - which did not go unnoticed due to an increasing amount of personalized ads and significant media exposure for critiques and protests - the general public gradually realizes that the free services always come with a cost, such as privacy risks (Lin and Liu, 2012). This research aims to provide insight into how and to which degree (potential) users of “free services” apply strategies to circumvent these costs. To investigate, we selected the case of Facebook as one of the most well-known free services with over 1.3 billion users. Specifically, we distributed a survey via Facebook and anti-Facebook communities, resulting in a sample of 451 people from 13 countries. Based upon resistance towards the influence of Facebook on their social and institutional privacy and their engagement towards Facebook and its free services, we identified four user segments: (1) Facebook lovers (low resistance-high engagement), (2) indifferent Facebook users (low resistance-low engagement), (3) alternative Facebook users (high resistance-high engagement), and (4) Facebook haters (high resistance-low engagement). The results reveal that Facebook lovers and indifferent Facebook users do not engage in a wide variety of strategies to circumvent privacy costs, whereas the opposite holds for alternative Facebook users and Facebook haters. Specifically, these user segments proactively engage in limiting self-disclosure through adjusting privacy settings, changing their use of the free services, and using add-ons, hacks, or scripts. By complementing these quantitative results with qualitative evidence, this research also provides more insight into the concretization of these strategies and the motives for adopting these strategies. A key finding is that strategies used to circumvent costs associated with free services can relate to (1) reducing self-disclosure to other free service users, or (2) reducing self-disclosure to the free service providers and third parties, which we label - in line with Raynes-Goldie (2010) - as social privacy motives and institutional privacy motives. These findings are important by providing insight into the implications of adopting a revenue generating model for the free service providers.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
conference
publication status
published
subject
in
Frontiers in Service Conference 2016
conference name
Frontiers in Service Conference 2016
conference location
Bergen, Norway
conference start
2016-06-23
conference end
2016-06-26
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
C3
id
7244639
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-7244639
date created
2016-06-06 15:08:47
date last changed
2016-12-19 15:37:07
@inproceedings{7244639,
  abstract     = {Over the past few years, many free services - such as online search engines and social networking platforms - have been introduced to the general public, which can generate meaningful and engaging experiences for users (Larivi{\`e}re, Joosten, Malthouse, van Birgelen, Aksoy, Kunz, and Huang, 2013). In recent year, several free service providers - such as Google and Facebook - moved from a free business model into a revenue generating model (Amit \& Zott 2012, Kumar 2014) by - among others - launching ads and sharing users{\textquoteright} data with any third party. As a consequence of this shift - which did not go unnoticed due to an increasing amount of personalized ads and significant media exposure for critiques and protests - the general  public gradually realizes that the free services always come with a cost, such as privacy risks (Lin and Liu, 2012). This research aims to provide insight into how and to which degree (potential) users of {\textquotedblleft}free services{\textquotedblright} apply strategies to circumvent these costs. 
To investigate, we selected the case of Facebook as one of the most well-known free services with over 1.3 billion users. Specifically, we distributed a survey via Facebook and anti-Facebook communities, resulting in a sample of 451 people from 13 countries. Based upon resistance towards the influence of Facebook on their social and institutional privacy and their engagement towards Facebook and its free services, we identified four user segments: (1) Facebook lovers (low resistance-high engagement), (2) indifferent Facebook users (low resistance-low engagement), (3)  alternative Facebook users (high resistance-high engagement), and (4) Facebook haters (high resistance-low engagement). The results reveal that Facebook lovers and indifferent Facebook users do not engage in a wide variety of strategies to circumvent privacy costs, whereas the opposite holds for alternative Facebook users and Facebook haters.  Specifically, these user segments proactively engage in limiting self-disclosure through adjusting privacy settings, changing their use of the free services, and using add-ons, hacks, or scripts.
By complementing these quantitative results with qualitative evidence, this research also provides more insight into the concretization of these strategies and the motives for adopting these strategies. A key finding is that strategies used to circumvent costs associated with free services can relate to (1) reducing self-disclosure to other free service users, or (2) reducing self-disclosure to the free service providers and third parties, which we label - in line with Raynes-Goldie (2010) - as social privacy motives and institutional privacy motives. These findings are important by providing insight into the implications of adopting a revenue generating model for the free service providers.},
  author       = {Verleye, Katrien and Quaschning, Simon and De Keyser, Arne },
  booktitle    = {Frontiers in Service Conference 2016},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Bergen, Norway},
  title        = {Circumventing the hidden cost of free services: lessons learnt from social media resisters},
  year         = {2016},
}

Chicago
Verleye, Katrien, Simon Quaschning, and Arne De Keyser. 2016. “Circumventing the Hidden Cost of Free Services: Lessons Learnt from Social Media Resisters.” In Frontiers in Service Conference 2016.
APA
Verleye, Katrien, Quaschning, S., & De Keyser, A. (2016). Circumventing the hidden cost of free services: lessons learnt from social media resisters. Frontiers in Service Conference 2016. Presented at the Frontiers in Service Conference 2016.
Vancouver
1.
Verleye K, Quaschning S, De Keyser A. Circumventing the hidden cost of free services: lessons learnt from social media resisters. Frontiers in Service Conference 2016. 2016.
MLA
Verleye, Katrien, Simon Quaschning, and Arne De Keyser. “Circumventing the Hidden Cost of Free Services: Lessons Learnt from Social Media Resisters.” Frontiers in Service Conference 2016. 2016. Print.