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BizReport : Loyalty Marketing : January 21, 2016

Consumers' willingness to share data 'context-dependent'

Americans' attitudes regarding the choice between privacy versus sharing and disclosure of personal information boils down to "it depends", according to new research from the Pew Research Center.

by Helen Leggatt

A study of 461 U.S. adults and nine online focus groups of 80 people has found most Americans see privacy issues in commercial settings as "contingent and context-dependent".

"While 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," says the report.

Specifically, 52% said they would be happy for their medical data to be uploaded to a secure site to allow their doctor to track health, but just 27% thought it was acceptable for a 'smart thermostat' to track their indoor movements to help save on energy costs. Forty-seven percent felt it was okay for retailers to track shopping habits through loyalty programs with the aim of receiving relevant promotions and discounts, but 32% said it was not acceptable.

Ultimately, via a series of data collection and sharing scenarios posed to the study participants, the answers depended wholly on the circumstances of the offer, the levels of trust in those collecting and storing the data, and the person's sense of what the aftermath of data-sharing might look like.

"Many policymakers and companies are anxious to know where Americans drawn the line on privacy - when they will resist privacy intrusions and when they are comfortable with sharing personal data," says Lee Rainie, author of the report and director of Internet, science and technology research at Pew Research Center. "These findings show how people's decisions are often context-specific and contingent. A phrase that summarizes their attitudes is, "It depends." Most are likely to consider options on a case-by-case basis, rather than apply hard-and-fast privacy rules."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: data collection, data sharing, data trends, privacy, survey

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