Consumers Are Willing To Give Up Some Privacy—For The Right Products

This post appears courtesy of the Ferenstein Wire, a syndicated news service. Publishing partners may edit posts. For inquiries, please email author and publisher Gregory Ferenstein.

Data is the lifeblood of connected products. If you’re going to sell hardware, software, and services to the public, you’re going to have to persuade people to trust you with some of their personal data.

The question for product builders is no longer a matter whether users will give up privacy, but how much and what kind they’re willing to disclose.

The Pew Research Center recently released a comprehensive study on how users respond to various realistic scenarios. For example, rather than ask abstractly about GPS in cars, Pew’s researchers asked if consumers would be willing to put a locator device in their car in exchange for discounts. 

For both product and policy makers, it’s helpful to know to what degree the public will accept surveillance and data collection in realistic, commercial contexts, rather than in the abstract.

The percentages below show the number of users who find the scenarios unacceptable. The remainder of those surveyed said the scenarios were “acceptable” or “it depends.”

Office Surveillance: 24%

Over half of users are cool with facial-recognition camera technology if, say, there’s been a rash of office thefts.

Electronic Health Records: 46%

A narrow majority of users were okay with storing and sharing sensitive medical information on secure websites for doctors.

GPS For Cars: 45%

A plurality of users objected to the idea of auto insurers tracking the speed and location of their cars in exchange for possible discounts.

Smart Thermostat: 55%

Fewer users are fans of smart-home devices that can track movement, even if that information is used to set room temperatures automatically.

“Many Americans are willing to share personal information in exchange for tangible benefits, they are often cautious about disclosing their information and frequently unhappy about what happens to that information once companies have collected it,” explained the authors of the report.

The broadest conclusion one can draw here is that users seem comfortable giving away information in business settings, but get more protective of it as they draw closer to home.

Read more about the study here.

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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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