Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Report: Which Data Do People Really Care About Keeping Private Online?

It’s never a good idea for sites and apps to abuse or lose track of users’ personal data. But not all personal data was created equal.

Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo recently tried to understand which types of data people are most concerned about sharing, by conducting a large survey of North American Internet users.

The big distinctions aren’t that surprising — for instance, 71 percent of those surveyed were concerned about companies accessing their credit card numbers, while only 38 percent were concerned about companies accessing their social profile data.

But there’s less agreement about which other data users feel okay about handing out, Khatibloo found. About half of the 37,350 people surveyed said they are willing to share their Internet browsing history, mailing address and email address — while half said they are not.

Do people actually act on their privacy concerns? Forty-four percent of all those surveyed said they had not completed an online transaction because of something they read in the company’s terms of use or privacy policy. That’s up from 38 percent in 2008.

Age was a significant factor in just about everything Forrester looked at, though. For instance, the survey found that more than half of consumers aged 18 to 34 are willing to share their personal data with brands in exchange for discounts. That willingness “declines precipitously” with age, Khatibloo said — less than 25 percent of those over age 55 will trade data for discounts.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work