Pew report: Your privacy for a price? It depends

People are willing to give up their privacy if they think they will receive a benefit and if they feel certain that the data is safe. That is one of the findings from a new report out Thursday from the Pew Research Center.

The release of the report was timed with a privacy conference today at the Federal Trade Commission. The study was based on a survey of 461 U.S. adults and 80 participants in nine online focus groups. They were presented six hypothetical situations in which some personal data was required to use a product or service.

But as you will see, people are already making these trade-offs in the real world every day.

Here are some of the scenarios and results:

  1. A workplace surveillance camera installed to combat theft: 54 percent said it was acceptable; 24 percent said it was not. 21 percent said it depended on the circumstances.
  2. A doctor’s office asks to upload your health data on a secure website: 52 percent would find this tradeoff acceptable, 26 percent would not.
  3. A store’s loyalty card would give you discounts but your buying habits would be sold to third parties:  47 percent would find this trade-off acceptable, 32 percent would not.
  4. An insurance company offers to install a device in your car to gather data on your driving speed and location.  It may offer you discounts to encourage safe driving: 37 percent would find this tradeoff acceptable, 45 percent would not.
  5. Personal details on a new social media site will be used to deliver advertising to you: 33 percent would find this trade-off acceptable, 51 percent would not. This one shows a stark difference by age, with 40 percent of those under 50 say it would be acceptable but only 24 percent of those over 50.
  6. A thermostat sensor at home that would gather data on when people are home and track when they move from room to room: 27 percent would find this tradeoff acceptable, 55 percent would not. Again age was a factor here with people over 50 more wary.

On the thermostat sensor, one respondent said, “I would be concerned that the data could be used to find out when nobody was home –I don’t want anyone tracking what I do in my home.”

Above: Illustration (Bay Area News Group). 


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  • alrui

    The dumbmasses (“people”) you surveyed are clueless!