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Paying for Online Privacy

Indeed, many consumers do not even check Web site privacy policies when they divulge their sensitive personally identifiable information. Yet, according to a recent report, when consumers are given a specific choice, many may actually pay more money during a transaction in return for privacy protection.

The report, prepared by Lorrie Cranor, who directs the Carnegie Mellon Usable Privacy and Security Labs, documents that consumers would pay an extra 60 cents for privacy protection on purchases of $15. Cranor came to this result by way of a hypothetical experiment.

In the experiment, participants were asked to buy a set of batteries and a sex toy. The sex toy was added into the mix to ascertain whether consumers might take extra steps to protect their personally identifiable information as part of this sensitive transaction. Interestingly, when participants had the option of making these purchases from a site that clearly posted its privacy policy and another that did not do so, they were inclined to pay a bit more to go with the site that plainly set forth its privacy policy.

Interesting piece of human behavior. It seems if we are told about privacy we respond and are inclined to even pay EXTRA for privacy protection but I wonder what happens when consumers roam free... do you read who your information is being shared with? sold to? Probably not. I found it amusing that a sex toy brought more concerns about privacy, of course some people might be a bit more hesitant to have a labeled box containing one to their door, the risks of buying a sex toy and anything else really wouldnt be very different in terms of keeping your information private.

These pieces always fascinate me, but how well do they translate over into practical solutions and behavior modification? Often it seems like not much, maybe on a perfect internet your information would never be shared, sold or distributed to any other source, your email could be freely shared as no spam was around... but I am dreaming :)

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