In an age where the internet knows everything there is to know about you, it’s interesting to note that most people aren’t really ok with the practice.
A new Pew Research Center study from the US has shown that while shoppers enjoy the perks of belonging to a grocery store loyalty programs, they’re not lovers of the way their data gets passed around.
Looking at consumer data and privacy, the study shows that while 47 per cent believe it’s acceptable for a grocery store to track shopping habits and sell that data to third parties in exchange for providing people with discounts, 32 per cent said it was not. In addition, 20 per cent responded with “it depends”.
Many of the participants expressed concerns about the safety and security of their personal data in light of numerous high-profile data breaches. They also regularly expressed anger about the barrage of unsolicited emails, phone calls, customised ads or other contacts that inevitably arise when they choose to share precious details about themselves.
In response to a question about having their online behaviour tracked in exchange for getting access to a free online service, one survey respondent wrote, “I want control over what ads are being ‘pushed back’ to me.
“I have no interest in ‘puppy portraits’ but I may be interested in cameras, equipment, etc. In an effort to ‘target’ my preferences, my inbox gets full of [expletive] that is not relevant to me.”
“The ‘selling to third party’ part makes me worry,” another participant said, before acknowledging, “[On the other hand], I have and frequently use a Safeway rewards card, which I suspect has just such an agreement.”
Pew surveyed 461 US adults in addition to conducting online focus groups with a total of 80 panellists for the study.
Older people were even less tolerant of the loyalty exchange, it found. Among those 50 and above, 39 per cent said they would not accept the deals-for-data sharing exchange that defines today’s sophisticated loyalty programs. Meanwhile, 27 per cent of those 18-49 would not be OK with the scenario.
When presented with a scenario in which they might save money on their energy bill by installing a “smart thermostat” that would monitor their movements around the home, most adults consider this an unacceptable trade-off.
As one survey respondent said, “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.”
And while the study didn’t cover every possible data for deals trade-off, it is interesting to note that 17 per cent of adults say they wouldn’t take any of the deals described in the six scenarios and 4 per cent say they would accept all of the deals.
The substantial majority indicate that at least one of these transactions is potentially acceptable to them.
The researchers found that 57 per cent of people agreeing to allow data collection in exchange for supermarket discounts were “resigned” to the concept, while 32 per cent called themselves “tradeoff supporters.”
“By misrepresenting the American people and championing the tradeoff argument, marketers give policymakers false justifications for allowing the collection and use of all kinds of consumer data often in ways that the public find objectionable,” the study concluded.
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