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Soc Sci Res. 2015 May;51:64-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.12.003. Epub 2014 Dec 16.

Privacy, technology, and norms: the case of Smart Meters.

Author information

1
Department of Sociology, Washington State University, United States. Electronic address: chorne@wsu.edu.
2
Department of Sociology, Washington State University, United States.
3
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Washington State University, United States.
4
Department of Sociology, Brown University, United States.

Abstract

Norms shift and emerge in response to technological innovation. One such innovation is Smart Meters - components of Smart Grid energy systems capable of minute-to-minute transmission of consumer electricity use information. We integrate theory from sociological research on social norms and privacy to examine how privacy threats affect the demand for and expectations of norms that emerge in response to new technologies, using Smart Meters as a test case. Results from three vignette experiments suggest that increased threats to privacy created by Smart Meters are likely to provoke strong demand for and expectations of norms opposing the technology and that the strength of these normative rules is at least partly conditional on the context. Privacy concerns vary little with actors' demographic characteristics. These findings contribute to theoretical understanding of norm emergence and have practical implications for implementing privacy protections that effectively address concerns of electricity users.

KEYWORDS:

Privacy; Smart Meter; Social norm; Technology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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