In a data-driven world, trust, sharing, and privacy go hand in hand. Using primary empirical research of online social network users, this paper argues that particular social trust — a resource of social capital among individuals concerning their expectations about the future behavior of others — may be both a source of the trust we place in the platforms on which we share and an important determinant in our propensity to share personal information on those websites. It suggests that sharing depends on context, generally, and on specific contexts of social embeddedness, value-sharing, and trust in others. This paper, therefore, seeks to fill an important gap in the legal, sociological, and marketing literature on what makes people share personal information online.
This argument is relevant to lawyers and the legal academy, as well as online businesses. Since online sharing makes targeted behavioral advertising possible, factors that encourage such sharing are of keen interest to businesses, marketers, and advertisers. Targeted advertising and consumer tracking also raise privacy concerns. Furthermore, the notion that sharing occurs in contexts of trust should challenge the common judicial refrain that sharing personal information with others eviscerates privacy interests. Elsewhere, I have called this new way of understanding the right to privacy, “privacy as trust.”