In privacy sharing, context is king (and hurrah say all of us)

Major new research from America has confirmed what many in the personal data privacy world have long suspected – whether or not people want to share their information hinges largely on the context of the request.

The Pew Research Center found that there were a variety of circumstances under which many Americans would share personal information or permit surveillance in return for getting something of perceived value.

The study of 461 adults and nine online focus groups of 80 people found that the vast majority (54% to 24%) think it would be acceptable for employers to install monitoring cameras after a series of thefts, with almost half (47%) also believing that the basic deal with store loyalty cards, which sees purchases tracked in return for occasional discounts, is acceptable – although another 32% think this is unacceptable.

But interestingly, where the benefit was not as clear cut, involved greater intrusion in their lives, or the ongoing collection of data, the proportion of people prepared to trust and take part fell dramatically.

So when offered a scenario in which their energy bill could be reduced by installing a “smart thermostat” that would monitor their movements around the home, most adults (55% to 27%) considered this an unacceptable trade-off. As one survey respondent explained: “There will be no ‘SMART’ anythings in this household. I have enough personal data being stolen by the government and sold [by companies] to spammers now.”

As the report’s authors concluded: “These findings suggest that the phrase that best captures Americans’ views on the choice between privacy vs. disclosure of personal information is, “It depends.”

“People’s views on the key trade-off of the modern, digital economy – namely, that consumers offer information about themselves in exchange for something of value – are shaped by both the conditions of the deal and the circumstances of their lives.

“In extended comments online and through focus groups, people indicated that their interest and overall comfort level depends on the company or organization with which they are bargaining and how trustworthy or safe they perceive the firm to be.

“It depends on what happens to their data after they are collected, especially if the data are made available to third parties. And it also depends on how long the data are retained.”

Here at digi.me, this completely chimes with both our business vision, whereby users are put back in control of their personal data to exchange or share for convenience, service or reward as they see fit, and our belief that the current system is broken beyond repair, with consumers and businesses at war, with neither getting what they want or need.

We are addressing this huge shift through our permissioned access model, releasing later this year, which will allow users to make the best use of their data, for their needs and wants, by adding health and financial data to their current social media life curation to provide a fuller version of their life.

Crucially, as users’ collect the data themselves with digi.me as the enabler, we never see any personal data, ever, and cannot access it under circumstances, so it will only be shared with the businesses they share with directly.

Additionally, new rules coming in across the EU in the next couple of years explicitly forbid details taken for one purpose to be sold on and used for another, so will effectively end third-party data selling.

All of which makes for very pleasing personal data developments, for all of us both personally and commercially.