Dimensions of employee privacy: an empirical study

Ball, Kirstie; Daniel, Elizabeth M. and Stride, Chris (2012). Dimensions of employee privacy: an empirical study. Information Technology & People, 25(4)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/09593841211278785


Purpose: The study goes beyond the more frequent interest in information privacy to identify other notions of privacy within the workplace. It seeks to explore how these additional notions of privacy relate to key demographic and employment characteristics and how data protection training, often instigated as a means of highlighting and addressing issues relating to privacy of customers’ data, is related to employees’ notions of their own workplace privacy.

Methodology: The study was undertaken in two telephone call centres since they offered a working environment where staff are highly monitored and hence there are likely to be issues relating to employee privacy. The study is exploratory in nature and adopts a mixed method approach based on a questionnaire survey that was followed by semi-structured, qualitative face to face interviews.

Findings: The survey findings identified three distinct notions of privacy; the concern for personal information privacy (CfPIP), the concern for working environment privacy (CfWEP) and the concern for solitude privacy (CfSP). The findings were supported by the qualitative data provided by the interviews. CfWEP is found to be a gendered issue, with women showing a greater concern for the privacy of their working environment. Finally, the findings indicate that effective data protection training are associated with increased concern for their own privacy in the form of CfPIP, and that inclusion of data protection issues in performance reviews is associated their concern for CfWEP.

Originality: Previous studies of privacy in the workplace focus on the simplistic notion of information privacy. This study goes beyond such studies and provides empirically-based evidence of multiple dimensions of privacy operant in a single, real-world workplace setting. It also provides empirical insight to the previously unexplored issue of the association between data protection training employees’ notions of their own privacy.

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