A Cross-Cultural Perspective on the Privacy Calculus

Sabine Trepte, Leonard Reinecke, Nicole B. Ellison, Oliver Quiring, Mike Z. Yao, Marc Ziegele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The “privacy calculus” approach to studying online privacy implies that willingness to engage in disclosures on social network sites (SNSs) depends on evaluation of the resulting risks and benefits. In this article, we propose that cultural factors influence the perception of privacy risks and social gratifications. Based on survey data collected from participants from five countries (Germany [n = 740], the Netherlands [n = 89], the United Kingdom [n = 67], the United States [n = 489], and China [n = 165]), we successfully replicated the privacy calculus. Furthermore, we found that culture plays an important role: As expected, people from cultures ranking high in individualism found it less important to generate social gratifications on SNSs as compared to people from collectivist-oriented countries. However, the latter placed greater emphasis on privacy risks—presumably to safeguard the collective. Furthermore, we identified uncertainty avoidance to be a cultural dimension crucially influencing the perception of SNS risks and benefits. As expected, people from cultures ranking high in uncertainty avoidance found privacy risks to be more important when making privacy-related disclosure decisions. At the same time, these participants ascribed lower importance to social gratifications—possibly because social encounters are perceived to be less controllable in the social media environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • individualism
  • privacy calculus
  • self-disclosure
  • social capital
  • social network sites
  • uncertainty avoidance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


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