New Study: Consumers Price Out the Value of Personal Data

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to get the latest updates in your inbox

Consumers say they’re concerned with privacy and control of their personal data, but according to new research, they sure have interesting ways of showing it.

At Adswerve, we talk a lot about being obsessed with data and inspired by people. So when we found ourselves with new questions about consumer attitudes and behaviors concerning online privacy, we took our curiosity straight to the source and surveyed consumers. Amid sweeping, consumer-centric privacy efforts by the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft, we knew it was time for more clarity on the privacy conversation. 

Here’s what immediately jumped out at us from our survey of 1,000 U.S. adult consumers in May 2021: 

  • There’s a knowledge gap on consumer privacy: An overwhelming 91% of respondents said control over the information collected about them is important, with 69% indicating it is “extremely” important. But while nearly two-thirds (67%) of consumers said they’re informed about their privacy rights, their actual knowledge tells a different story, revealing a significant gap in education on the subject. 
  • Data value is a million dollar question: Consumers know their data is valuable to brands, but thankfully for marketers, many find benefits in sharing it. About a third (34%) of consumers said they have benefited from giving up data to brands, but there is another side to the coin. A sizable 32% of consumers said no amount of money could buy access to the entirety of their data — even when the survey offered an option of a $1 million offer. 
  • Consumers are wary of ads, but willing to barter data for perks: Marketers should take note of the perks consumers are willing to trade a significant amount of their personal data for (pro tip: credit offers are very attractive). Brands should also be concerned about the relatively low levels of trust consumers have in modern forms of advertising — if 54% of consumers don’t trust social media ads, are they still an effective channel? 

These key takeaways are just a few of the many insights. We’ve broken down the most valuable data from our survey below. We hope this glimpse into consumers’ psyche on privacy will be a valuable way of getting to know your customers better. 

A deeper dive into the privacy knowledge gap 

Consumers overwhelmingly want to own their data, and know where it goes and who sees it. But while 67% said they feel confident they know their privacy rights, they backed down (and in some cases failed) when asked to prove it. 

Our respondents were asked if they could generally explain important legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act or the General Data Protection Regulation overseas, and 61% responded they couldn’t. Worse, 21% of respondents indicated they could explain the American Data Protection Act — a dummy answer we included. These results paint a picture of consumers who think they have a grasp on privacy, but are actually leaving themselves vulnerable because of their lack of knowledge. How? Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) respondents believe it’s possible to remain totally anonymous online, but they don’t use a VPN while browsing. 

Dissecting the value of data to consumers 

No amount of money could buy data from 32% of consumers. The remaining two-thirds have a price — and we asked them to spell out what their information is really worth. Forty-six percent of consumers were only willing to spend up to $10 on protection against identity theft, and despite public debates and uproar over data leaks and misuse, 49% of consumers said they haven’t deleted any popular social media apps.

A notable thread in the data is concern about credit. Consumers ranked data about current financial status as one of the most valuable pieces of information, and indicated that higher credit scores and better credit offers are perks they would be willing to surrender some data for. In fact, 18% of consumers said they would give up a “significant” amount of their data for a higher credit score, and 14% would do the same for better credit offers. 

Consumers’ curious privacy habits and beliefs 

There are even more gaps between beliefs and actions on privacy, but there are also some interesting insights into who consumers seek privacy from. More than half of respondents (63%) said they would be comfortable sharing data with a spouse, and 42% said the same for their parents. Surprisingly, while 47% would be comfortable sharing browsing history with law enforcement, only 29% of respondents said the same for their employer. 

But the most hesitancy comes from brands and influencers seeing where they’ve browsed — 39% of respondents said they’re uncomfortable sharing data with brands, and 27% would be extremely uncomfortable having influencers having access. This tracks with the 34% of consumers who said they don’t trust brands to responsibly use their data. It’s also indicative of a general distrust of ads. More than half of consumers don’t trust modern advertising methods like social media ads or search links.

How to stand out in a noisy privacy conversation

As the advertising landscape shifts toward more consumer-driven data privacy, marketers have to be looking for new ways to capture first-party data. Marketers should view the gaps in knowledge and behavior around privacy as an opportunity to reach and protect consumers in new ways. Hopefully, this data inspires you to challenge your beliefs and assumptions about your own customers, and how they value information about themselves. 

We’re also readily available to consult with you about what marketing looks like for you in a privacy-driven digital ecosystem. As you consider the future, take some of the actions we encourage our partners to make while you get started. 

Make privacy part of your company DNA: The responsibility for privacy doesn’t lie in one department. Break down team silos, bring in your legal team to help ensure you’re meeting privacy regulations and make sure all departments know their share of the effort to stay compliant.

Invest in the right technology: Tools have never been so important to staying compliant. Consider using consent platforms and server-side tag management, implementing Google Analytics and taking on data modeling projects.

Carefully collect the right data: Build trust with your users by offering incentives for their data, proving you’ll use it responsibly and collecting only the data you need.

If any of the above sounds daunting, we’re here to help. And if you're an Adswerve client, you also have access to Adswerve Connect, which is full of helpful on-demand training sessions that walk you through solutions to common first-party data collection challenges.