Personal Information

The Millennials Worry About Online Sharing. The Chinese Don't


All this attention to Big Data proves one thing: Personal information can be profitable. A lot of companies can track how people surf and spend, but the big money lies in matching it with data that people volunteer about their backgrounds and preferences. That’s why computer scientist Jaron Lanier has argued that consumers should be compensated for the data they wittingly or unwittingly provide, perhaps though a universal micropayment system.

While that’s not happening soon, consumers are becoming a little stingier with what they’re willing to give up—and whom they’re willing to give it to. Privacy laws make it easier to say no. The question is what motivates them to say yes.

In June, a study from Infosys (INFO:IN) found most Americans would happily trade their privacy for better services. Now comes a new study from Boston Consulting Group that challenges long-held notions about who’s willing to give up data and why. Some findings:

• Millennials aren’t far behind other generations in being cautious about what personal information they share online. About 81 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds agree with that (71 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds do). For Gen X and boomers, the numbers are 84 percent and 87 percent.

• The Chinese are least worried about what they reveal online, with only half agreeing with the idea that you have to be cautious online, while 83 percent of Americans agreed.

• Among Canadians, 91 percent consider credit card data private and 90 percent say other financial data should be—slightly ahead of the U.S. In Japan, the numbers were 41 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

• Consumers who feel they have the ability to prevent harmful uses of their data are five to 10 times as likely to share data.

• One-fifth of Americans are more likely to share data with health insurers if they know how the information is being used. Only 10 percent would do the same for media companies.

For more on the study, go to this link.

Brady_190
Brady is a senior editor for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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