online privacy

Consumers Willing to Forgo Privacy, For a Price

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Online privacy is a topic that everyone is talking about right now, but the general belief that consumers are unaware of how their personal information is being shared by technology providers may be outdated.

New research indicates that consumers are actually more aware of how their personal information is being used today than they were last year, with those ages 55 and above showing the greatest level of awareness. These consumers are increasingly willing to share their personally identifiable information with brand marketers—with one caveat. They want a reward for doing it.

“I think people would be surprised to learn just how aware people are of their data and that they are willing to share their data if adequately incentivized. As it turns out, that incentive doesn’t need to be much,” says Gil Larsen, VP Americas at Blis, the global location insights firm.

According to Blis’ research, 60% of consumers would unveil their personally identifiable information to advertisers, either for free or at a price. Fifty-seven percent of these respondents place a $10 minimum on the value of their identity.

“Privacy and transparency will be paramount for this new data economy as it grows and evolves over time,” says Larsen.

Outrage over privacy violations by Facebook, wireless carriers, and countless other technology companies has dominated headlines in recent months. AT&T has said it will stop selling location data, and Facebook has issued too many mea culpas to count. But a new breed of tech firms is jumping head first into the fray with a business model that capitalizes on consumers’ newfound willingness to share personal data in exchange for certain incentivizes.

With Killi, a mobile app developed by the multi-touch, offline attribution firm Freckle, consumers can opt-in to share certain pieces of their personal information with brands, in exchange for money. The app, which Freckle says is the most compliant, highest fidelity data source in the industry, has become a backbone for the company’s attribution engine, giving advertisers and data buyers access to a user-initiated audience.

Freckle isn’t the only tech company to go this route. Just last month, Microsoft began testing an initiative called “Project Bali,” which aims to provide users with access to their own “personal data bank.” While it’s still early-days for the project, insiders are speculating that Microsoft may be looking for a way to let consumers share and monetize their own personal data.

Larsen believes that the future of data sharing lies firmly in the opt-in approach, with consumers being incentivized to share information, like buying habits, in exchange for discounts on their next shopping trips.

“It is clear that people want control over what they share and who gets access to it. Every platform, and company, will be affected by this and the entire landscape will change,” he says.

Of course, not all data is created equal. Blis’ own research indicates that consumers are less likely to part with their contact information than they are their demographic information.

Location data is another beast entirely. Eighty-two percent of consumers in Blis’ survey said they know that companies actively track their location data, and 33% have disabled location tracking on their phones. But 15% said they would re-enable location tracking in exchange for a guarantee that they would only see deals or coupons from places they have been recently.

By the time formal data privacy regulations go into effect for U.S. marketers next year, Larsen believes the entire industry will have changed. Brands and marketers will have to get explicit consent to collect customer data, and consumers will begin to expect some sort of reward for their information, like money, coupons, or another financial incentive.

“It is clear that people want control over what they share and who gets access to it,” Larsen says. “Every platform, and company, will be affected by this and the entire landscape will change.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.