Young Adult Preferences for Campaign Website Personalization and Privacy: A Data-driven Instrument for Design

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Information Systems


Information Systems

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Websites have been used by political campaigns for nearly two and a half decades and the literature has adequately covered human factors aspects of political campaign websites with the help of usability, task analysis, and content analysis studies. However, there was a gap in the literature concerning the relationship between campaign website visitor privacy preferences, content personalization, and trust in the candidate or campaign. This dissertations presents the idea that user preferences regarding privacy and personalization inform the design process of such websites and impact user trust. Built upon the human factors, political communication, and Internet politics literature, this dissertations examines the privacy and personalization preferences of young adult website users in the political sphere by seeking which factors have an impact on trust. The focus is on obtaining data before design regarding existent user privacy knowledge, user behavior patterns, user perceptions, and user expectations rather than on relying on post-campaign website analysis. In this dissertations a theoretical framework between privacy, personalization, and trust is developed using a mixed methods approach. Data was collected from young adults using an online survey and in-person interviews. Quantitative data collected from the survey was statistically analyzed and qualitative data from the interviews was coded for themes. The results of the study provide a theoretical model showing the relationship between privacy, personalization, and trust in a political campaign website as perceived by young adults. Control of the website experience and of data self-disclosure is foundational in young adult trust of campaign websites. Automated content personalization can limit this control and places a higher requisite of disclosure on the website user than on the campaign and candidate. This is perceived negatively by users and heightens their need for privacy and raises "red flags" regarding the trustworthiness of the campaign website and candidate. Practical implications for design can mitigate this mistrust of political websites by young adults. This dissertations describes treatment of the privacy policy, privacy awareness tools, opt-in processes, user controlled personalization tools as campaign website features that can allow personalization and privacy balance.