Consumers Value Privacy. But How Much?

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User Rank
Ryck   4/9/2012 1:16:04 PM

Mitch, rather than asking consumers what they are wiling to pay to relinquish some of their personal data, perhaps firms, who understand the value of this information, need to start paying people to lower their privacy wall.  Phone survey interviewers always have a line that by answering their questions, companies will be able to provide me with better products.  But, do they mean products for me or for Joe/Jan Q. Public?  The value proposition for respondents is too vague and doesn't really motivate me.  If you want my information, then you have to make it wothwhile to me--specifically me.  For this reason, maybe the companies should start shelling out dollars to collect good information.  I'm not sure exactly this would work, but if it's valuable enough for the companies, I am sure they can figure out a way.

User Rank

Karl, I agree with you.  I think that many consumers are talking out of both sides of their mouth.  Although this survey indicated that privacy seems to be a big concern for many, it's their actions, as you identified correctly, that speak volumes about this issue.  As an example, in our office we were entertaining a partnership with another firm, so we did as many do, we did an Internet search of our prime contact.  Within 60 seconds, we had her work background for the past 10-15 years from LinkedIn, and from a blog we learned about her friends, her family, favorite hangouts where she currently lives, as well as learning she is a single mother to a young boy, and even found pictures of her sitting pool-side in her bikini, sipping on a cold one.  All of this was found on the first search and within a minute.  So, for those that are bellyaching about privacy, they should ensure that they are not exposing themselves and their lives elsewhere.

User Rank

Pew said that a majority of Facebook users restricted views by limiting access to their friends only. They didn't ask about subscriptions or public posts. 

User Rank

There's a privacy concern. No surprise. When asked a direct question, of course the overwhelming response will be "yes, I'm concerned about it." But, as you said, actions don't seem to support the voice of concern.

The collective we seems to want a more personalized web experience. Who wants meat ads, for example, down the right rail on Facebook when "everyone" knows we're a vegetarian. "We" would much rather see a tofu ad than a hamburger ad. There's a price for that kind of specialization. Ask if "we" want that specialization and it wouldn't surprise me to see an overwhelming yes. "We" want it, but "we" may not be ready to pay the price for it.

Mitch Wagner
User Rank

Karl - Did the Pew report say how people had restricted the view of some material?

User Rank

Mitch - related to your question about what people are willling to give up, I wish the survey had asked what people were doing about their privacy. Pew Research showed that 58% of online users had restricted view of some material. This is a healthy percentage, but that leaves a lot of people with default settings in place. 

In a curious twist, Pew reported that the most highly educated users had the most difficulty with the privacy settings. It may be that this group was more worried about the stakes associated with privacy management and was less able to get it right. 

While I'm sympathetic to the privacy concerns, there is a certain minimum amount of awareness and effort that is the consumer's responsibility. You can't be requesting additional police patrols in your neighrborhood and then leave your car unlocked wiith keys and cash on the dashboard. 

It also would have been good if Consumers Union had published the full report of their survey on their web site.

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