Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Privacy in the Sharing Economy

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Privacy in the Sharing Economy

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Information and communication technology (ICT) has changed the character of social and economic interactions. In an increasingly digital and information-driven world, the so-called "sharing economy", instantiated by consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platforms such as Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, and many others, enables users to rent out personal resources such as their apartments or spare seats in their cars. In a very short time span, these platforms have created global multibillion dollar markets. A recent EU report estimates annual consumer spending in P2P online markets at €6.6 billion for accommodations, and €1.0 billion for ridesharing (EU, 2017). In the US context, the market research firm eMarketer projects that the number of adults using commercial sharing services will grow to over 85 million by 2021 (eMarketer 2017). Going forward, overall market volume is predicted to reach nearly $335 billion by 2025 (PwC, 2015, 2016). With regard to individual sectors, the investment research group PiperJaffray estimates that by 2025, peer-to-peer accommodation platforms will generate revenues of over $100 billion (up to 10 percent of all bookings) and that ridesharing companies will capture more than 5 percent of the $90 billion global taxi market (Olsen & Kemp, 2015).

Already the boundaries between the private and economic spheres have started to erode (Slee, 2016; Sundararajan, 2016). Enabled by online and mobile ICT, private individuals have gained the ability to monetize their idle or underused personal resources as microentrepreneurs on a large scale, but at the cost of revealing personal data. Einav, Farronato, and Levin (2015, p. 629) note that peer-to-peer marketplaces "rely extensively on user data and algorithms to match buyers and sellers, set prices, and monitor behavior". The availability of personal information is considered a crucial prerequisite for creating trust among peers on such platforms (Proserpio, Xu, & Zervas, 2016; Teubner & Hawlitschek, 2018; Ufford, 2015). At the same time, Internet users' privacy concerns become increasingly important (Goldfarb & Tucker, 2012).

Ten years ago, the idea of hosting strangers in one's private home (e.g., during an absence) in order to generate extra income was virtually inconceivable. In the meantime, the norms and boundaries between social and economic matters have shifted dramatically-or, as Acquisti et al. (2015, p. 509) put it, "If this is the age of information, then privacy is the issue of our times". The sharing economy pits information disclosure, economic considerations, and privacy concerns against each other.

It is important to understand that these C2C transactions differ in several ways from traditional C2C e-commerce (e.g., eBay): First and foremost, the products on these platforms furnish intimate insights into the providers' most personal realms. It is quite obvious that such intrusions into the providers' personal spheres are considered infringements of their extended selves and may cause physical and psychological discomfort (Lutz, Hoffmann, Bucher, & Fieseler, 2018). Importantly, however, even before a transaction actually takes place, personal data are revealed as resources are typically marketed through vivid online profiles which often include real names, information about one's residence, personal self-descriptions, photographs, and many other details (Dambrine, Jerome, & Ambrose, 2015; Ma, Hancock, Mingjie, & Naaman, 2017). Such transparency is considered a prerequisite for online trust and reputation (Gebbia, 2016; Teubner, Saade, Hawlitschek, & Weinhardt, 2016): Providers can only successfully market their resources if they disclose personal information to signal trustworthiness and quality (Huang & Liu, 2010). As providers on C2C platforms are private individuals, this immediately raises the question of how their preferences for privacy may be balanced against economic prospects (Dinev & Hart, 2006; Krasnova, Veltri, & Günther, 2012). …

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