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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

What’s privacy really worth?

January 15, 2016 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Consumers are willing to trade some amount of privacy for a returned benefit reports a new Pew Research Center study. Americans see privacy tradeoffs as conditional and very context related. The type of company collecting the data, as well as how trustworthy it is plays an important role. Though, consumers still report concerns with potential consequences such as data breaches that could have damaging effects. Consumers are not pleased when data is collected for one purpose and is used for another and they are often suspicion about the data collectors.

Pew provided the research participants with six scenarios that involved sharing some level of their personal data in exchange for using a product or service. The participants, adults 18-plus, were then asked whether what they were offered in return was “acceptable”, “not acceptable”, or “it depends”.

#1 Surveillance in the workplace
Office surveillance cameras with facial recognition are placed in the workplace. Surveillance footage can also track measures of employee attendance and performance. Retention of footage is not specified.

One-half of the consumers (54%) surveyed reported that the installation of surveillance cameras at work and the retention of the data is acceptable, while one fifth (21%) said the tradeoff depended on the circumstances.

#2 Health information website
A new health information website used by doctors to manage patient health records. Doctors can upload files for patient access. The website is promised to be a secure site.

Fifty-two percent of consumers reported this was acceptable while 26% said it depended on the details.

#3 Loyalty card
A free loyalty card offered to customers to save money on purchases in exchange for the tracking of personal shopping habits. This data can be sold to third parties.

Less than one-half (47%) of adults said this is acceptable and 20% reported it depended on the details of the offer. Interestingly 39% of consumers 50-plus said they would not accept this offer compared to 27% of adults 18-49.

#4 Insurance offering
An insurance company offered a discount to consumers that agreed to place a device in their car that monitors driving speed and location. The data can be analyzed for driving habits which may offer additional rewards for safe driving.

Just over one-third of consumers (37%) found this acceptable and 16% said the decision depended on the circumstances. Importantly, 45% of consumers reported the tradeoff was not acceptable.

#5 Social media site
A new social media platform manages communications for class reunions. Targeted advertising is served to consumers in exchange for free access.

Fifty-one percent of consumers did not find this plan acceptable compared to one-third who said it was acceptable.

#6 Smart thermostat
An inexpensive thermostat sensor learns the temperature zone and movements in a consumer’s household and can possibly save money on energy bills. It’s programmable remote is given in exchange for sharing household data of the basic activities that take place in the home.

More than half (55%) of consumers found this offer not acceptable while 37% claimed it was acceptable.

What does this all mean for the future of consumer privacy? Many consumers see data tracking unstoppable. And while most consumers understand the need for government surveillance with the threat of terrorism, there still is the opinion that there should be limits on what activities can be monitored and how long the data can be retained.

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