PurposeIn the era of big data, people are more likely to pay attention to privacy protection with facing the risk of personal information leakage while enjoying the convenience brought by big data technology. Furthermore, people’s views on personal information leakage and privacy protection are varied, playing an important role in the legal process of personal information protection. Therefore, this paper aims to propose a semi-qualitative method based framework to reveal the subjective patterns about information leakage and privacy protection and further provide practical implications for interested party.Design/methodology/approachQ method is a semi-qualitative methodology which is designed for identifying typologies of perspectives. In order to have a comprehensive understanding of users’ viewpoints, this study incorporates LDA & TextRank method and other information extraction technologies to capture the statements from large-scale literature, app reviews, typical cases and survey interviews, which could be regarded as the resource of the viewpoints.FindingsBy adopting the Q method that aims for studying subjective thought patterns to identify users’ potential views, the authors have identified three categories of stakeholders’ subjectivities: macro-policy sensitive, trade-offs and personal information sensitive, each of which perceives different risk and affordance of information leakage and importance and urgency of privacy protection. All of the subjectivities of the respondents reflect the awareness of the issue of information leakage, that is, the interested parties like social network sites are unable to protect their full personal information, while reflecting varied resistance and susceptibility of disclosing personal information for big data technology applications.Originality/valueThe findings of this study provide an overview of the subjective patterns on the information leakage issue. Being the first to incorporate the Q method to study the views of personal information leakage and privacy protection, the research not only broadens the application field of the Q method but also enriches the research methods for personal information protection. Besides, the proposed LDA & TextRank method in this paper alleviates the limitation of statements resource in the Q method.