The Privacy Paradox: It All Depends on How You Ask the Question

PrivacyConsumers are confused and ambivalent about online and mobile privacy. What do they really think and feel? A thousand surveys won’t clear that up. That’s because it all depends on how surveys ask and frame the issues.

According to a late 2013 TRUSTe consumer survey (conducted by Harris), consumer privacy concerns are increasing. The company says consumer confidence around online privacy has hit a three-year low.

The survey data report that consumers are less likely to do the following because of privacy concerns:

Truste privacy data

Source: TRUSTe 2014 US Consumer Confidence Privacy Report

Below are the top six reasons according to the same survey for consumers’ increased privacy worries. They are most concerned about first-party information being shared with third parties. In contrast to the above, location tracking on mobile phones appears relatively low on the list. Other survey data show this to be a bigger concern for many consumers.

Truste Privacy concerns top 6

Source: TRUSTe 2014 US Consumer Confidence Privacy Report

By contrast there’s also now a fair amount of data that says consumers will trade location information and other personal data for rewards and benefits: contests, price discounts, loyalty points, personalization and so on. In other words when presented with concrete benefits consumers are open to sharing location and other personal data.

It’s the abstract fear of being “tracked” vs. the concrete benefits of “sharing” for rewards. And when given incentives, offers and other benefits — especially in a mobile context — consumer behavior can be significantly impacted.┬á The following data are from a Swirl survey released earlier this year regarding in-store marketing:

in-store behavior

Source: Swirl survey of 1,000 US adults, May 2014

There are more where that came from too. I’ve done surveys that indicate consumer receptiveness to indoor marketing.

If you looked at just the Swirl survey or similar data you’d conclude that consumers had no problem with local-mobile targeting and proximity marketing. But if you read only the TRUSTe survey data (or similar surveys), you’d be inclined to conclude the opposite: that only a small minority of consumers were interested in location based ads and offers on mobile devices.

We’ll be talking about these issues and what marketers need to know about location and privacy on a free webinar later this morning/afternoon (10 PT/1 ET) with Future of Privacy Forum executive director Jules Polonetsky.

Polonetsky will also be leading an interactive privacy discussion at Place 2014, coming up later this month in NYC:

  • Maya Mikhailov, EVP and Co-Founder, GPShopper
  • Amanda Koulousias, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission
  • Kate Kaye, Writer, Advertising Age
  • Elo├»seGratton, National Co-chair, Privacy Practice Group, McMillan LLP

Having a direct and open conversation about privacy is critical for brands, retailers and agencies. Many retailers are avoiding public comment or involvement in the privacy discussion for fear of a PR backlash. However failing to take ownership of the issue and discuss it openly is a far greater risk over the long term.

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