Is your privacy worth more than a bagel?

German researchers have determined that people won't pay more than 65 cents to protect their personal information. I think they're asking the wrong questions.


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What is your privacy worth? According to Berlin privacy researchers, about 65 cents – or the cost of bagel, sans schmear.

Researchers at the German Institute for Economic Research brought 443 consumers into a lab to purchase movie tickets online from one of two sellers. One of the ticket vendors asked for more personal information than the other one. The researchers then played around with discounts to see whether price or privacy were valued more highly.

Per the study:

Participants had the choice between a privacy-friendly firm and a privacy-unfriendly firm. Because the tickets were delivered electronically, both companies required a minimum of personal information: full name, date of birth and email address. Depending on treatment, the privacy-invasive seller also requested the mobile phone number or permission to use the email address for marketing.

The experimenters verified the data the participants provided, so they couldn’t cheat by providing bogus info.

Bottom line: All prices being equal, people would opt for the provider that asked for less personal information. (Insert applause here.) But if the more invasive company offered a discount of roughly 65 cents, two-thirds of those consumers opted to give up their personal information and take the lower price. (Boo, hiss.)

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