An Analysis of the Influence of Cultural Backgrounds of Individuals upon their Perspective towards Privacy within Internet Activities




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


Concern about privacy is an important consideration for users of information and communication technologies (ICT), particularly when using computer-mediated communication (CMC), i.e. Internet usage. Several researchers have studied privacy issues by taking into account the views of users to include individuals, organisations, privacy policy makers, governments and trust organisations.

This thesis investigates whether an individual’s perspectives about privacy are culturally relevant when using the Internet. This research used a survey in the form of a questionnaire in two countries, namely, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia to compare online privacy perspectives of young and mature (male and female) Saudi and Malaysian students. The research examines the relationship of the effect of the cultural background including the effect of social norms, religious belief, Internet regulation and IT skills of these Internet users upon their attitude towards privacy online and their perspectives about privacy. It also examines the effect of nationality (Malaysian and Saudi), gender and age groups. In this study, online privacy perspectives are a synthesis of three perceptions; what is ‘personal’ information online, the online privacy concerns and the Internet trust, whereby the cultural effects are the effect of religious beliefs, social norms, Internet regulation and IT skills in the privacy attitudes of keeping personal information safe, caring about their and others’ privacy online and when revealing personal information. The demographic factors in this research are nationality, gender and age. To study these relationships, the research uses t-test, ANOVA, and single regression methods as data analysis techniques.

The results show that the level of concern and degree of trust exhibited by Malaysian students with regard to submitting personal information via the Internet was affected the most by their gender, and social norms upon their online privacy attitudes. For Saudi students, the level of concern and trust with regard to submitting personal information via the Internet was found to be related to the effect of their age, gender, and religious beliefs on their online privacy attitudes. The other cultural factors, i.e. Internet regulation in force in each country and the IT skills of participants, are likely to have equal effects on both Malaysian and Saudi privacy perspectives.

This research adds the cultural background, age and gender effects to the model of the calculus of the privacy concern that is proposed by Dinev and Hart (2006, pp. 63-64). The research also establishes what is ‘private’ in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, by identifying “what counts as personal information with regard to Internet users” and provides a comparison in this concept between the two countries, their gender and age groups. For examples, Malaysian students consider name, e-mail address, date of birth, nationality and religion as ‘personal’ information and Saudi students consider home address, phone number, photographic image and credit card number as ‘personal’ information. In addition Saudi females tend to consider, particularly, home address, phone number, and photographic image as ‘personal’ information more than Saudi males. These findings should help both web designers and Internet policy makers in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia to consider these cultural effects when designing the privacy policies of their websites.



on-line privacy concerns, religious beliefs, social norms, Internet regulations and IT skills, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, gender and age



Research Institute