"It wouldn't happen to me": Privacy concerns and perspectives following the Cambridge Analytica scandal

Joanne Hinds*, Emma J Williams, Adam N Joinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)
1579 Downloads (Pure)


In March 2018, news of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal made headlines around the world. By inappropriately collecting data from approximately 87 million users’ Facebook profiles, the data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, created psychographically tailored advertisements that allegedly aimed to influence people's voting preferences in the 2016 US presidential election. In the aftermath of this incident, we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with 30 participants based at a UK university, discussing their understanding of online privacy and how they manage it in the wake of the scandal. We analysed this data using an inductive (i.e. ‘bottom-up’) thematic analysis approach. Contrary to many opinions reported in the news, the respondents in our sample did not delete their accounts, frantically change their privacy settings, or even express that much concern. As a result, individuals often consider themselves immune to psychographically tailored advertisements, and lack understanding of how automated approaches and algorithms work in relation to their (and their networks’) personal data. We discuss our findings in relation to wider related research (e.g. crisis fatigue, networked privacy, Protection Motivation Theory) and discuss directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102498
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies
Early online date13 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Facebook
  • cybersecurity
  • targeted advertising
  • data breach
  • privacy fatigue
  • networked privacy


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