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You Are Richer Than You Know

Publication Date: 
August 21, 2014
Business 2 Community
Ben Plomion

Business 2 Community reports on Director of Privacy at the Center for Internet and Society Aleecia McDonald's recent work in surveying Americans' willingness to pay for the protection of their online data.

When Stanford’s Aleecia McDonald and Carnegie Mellon’s Lorrie Cranor conducted a survey to find out how much value we place on our personal data, they discovered something surprising: If you ask Americans if they’re willing to pay $1 to keep their favorite news site from collecting their data, only 11 percent say “yes.” But if you ask Americans if they’re willing to accept a $1 discount on their Internet bill in exchange for allowing their data to be tracked, 69 percent say “no.”

What to make of this discrepancy? McDonald and Cranor think it all comes down to whether we feel in control of our data. In the first scenario, few people wanted to pay more because their data was already being used. In the second scenario, you still have a chance to keep your data private, and that’s worth a dollar to most people. As Alexis Madrigal notes in The Atlantic , the study suggests that “privacy erosion leads to more privacy erosion.” The more data about us that’s already out there, the less we care about our privacy.