Data Capitalism and the User: An Exploration of Privacy Cynicism in Germany
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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- Scientific articles 
Original versionNew Media & Society. 2020, 22 (7), 1168-1187. 10.1177/1461444820912544
Ever since empirical studies found only a weak, if any, relationship between privacy concerns and privacy behavior, scholars have struggled to explain the so-called privacy paradox. Today, a number of theoretical arguments illuminate users’ privacy rationales, including the privacy calculus, privacy literacy and contextual differentiations. A recent approach focuses on user resignation, apathy or fatigue. In this piece, we concentrate on privacy cynicism, an attitude of uncertainty, powerlessness, mistrust and resignation towards data handling by online services, which renders privacy protection subjectively futile. We discuss privacy cynicism in the context of data capitalism, as a coping mechanism to address the tension between digital inclusion and a desire for privacy. Moreover, we introduce a measure for privacy cynicism and investigate the phenomenon based on a large-scale survey in Germany. The analysis highlights the multidimensionality of the construct, differentiating its relationships with privacy concerns, threat experience, Internet skills and protection behavior.