Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

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Digital inequalities in online privacy protection: effects of age, education, and gender


Büchi, Moritz /

Noemi Festic /

Just, Natascha /

Michael Latzer

In: Hargittai E (ed.) Handbook of Digital Inequality. Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 293–307.

Datafication entails discussions about adequate privacy and data governance and the role of user self-help in it. This study examined online privacy protection from a digital inequality perspective and analyzed which factors directly and indirectly predict online privacy protection at the individual level. A nationally representative survey was carried out in Switzerland (N = 1121) with multiple-indicator measures of online privacy protection and attitudes, privacy breaches experienced, Internet skills, and the amount of Internet use. Path modeling revealed that pro-privacy attitudes, experiences of privacy breaches, the amount of Internet use, and general Internet skills are all related to increased privacy-protective behaviors. Internet skills and the amount of use were heavily dependent on age and education, with gender differences being less pronounced. Additionally, lower age and higher education were directly associated with a higher frequency of privacy protection. This study finds that overall, low-use and low-skilled older Internet users represent a social group that is particularly vulnerable to negative Internet outcomes.