The Value Of Privacy? Make An Offer
From a top-line view, mobile consumers worry about the ways that ad-driven mobile media models may compromise their personal information. About 34% had reservations about ad-driven mobile incentive programs because they were unsure how the advertisers would use any information the consumers shared, while 49% worried about not knowing who else might have access to their data. But neither privacy issue was as daunting to customers as was the time they would have to spend watching ads (54%).
On the critical question of whether customers are willing to have their "mobile usage information documented and dispersed by your mobile operator in exchange for discounted services," a little less than 50% said "No" outright. More intriguing are the 13% who said yes flatly and the 33% who said it would depend on the incentives. In other words, something like 46% of mobile users were willing to barter their usage data for discounts on marketer products or mobile service generally. "We were surprised that they weren't only willing to participate but willing to hand over a degree of personal information as the discounts increased," says Chris Couch, Transverse COO. Which is not to say users are careless with their personal information, In fact, respondents distinguished between observing usage and monitoring content. "The line it seems they want to draw is on personal content of communications," says Couch.
The most interesting part of this survey involves specifics about the types of information willing consumers will and won't share.
Chart: Which Types of Information Would You be Willing to Disclose?
None of these: 8.27%
Content of Download: 22.13%
Frequency of Downloads: 39.47%
Web Pages Viewed: 40%
Frequency of Other Data usage: 46.93%
Number of Text Messages Sent and/or Received: 74.13%
Voice Usage: 61.60%
Many users seem to distinguish among data trails that do and don't reveal much about them. The remarkable willingness to share the number of SMS messages one exchanges suggests most people see little harm in letting themselves be characterized as heavy or light users of a medium but start to balk when the nature of the content is involved. Abstraction and anonymity seem to be the principle surrounding privacy attitudes. On the matter of actual Web use, however, the glass is half empty or full.
Many (but clearly not all) consumers don't seem overly protective of their anonymous data if publishers and advertisers show them real value. For instance, 31% of customers said they would release usage information for marketing use if they could get 50% off their bill. About 15% said they would do so for a 75% discount -- and 25.5% seemed to consider 100% free service a fair exchange.
To be sure, research involving mobile plans is a bit different from standard Web audience research. We complain about the high price of carrier plans, and so more of us may be motivated to barter data for discounts. But on the other hand, most people regard their phone as a highly personal device and may be more sensitive to data gathering on these devices. Nevertheless, many consumers are putting a fairly high price on their data and they don't want penny ante payback. Less than 10% of users were impressed by trading usage information for a 25% phone bill discount. Users were even less interested in product discounts and freebies other than phone bill discounts. The meaning is clear. If you come to the consumer's bargaining table looking for their information, you'd better come with more than coupons and two-fers.