In a blog post this past week, a reporter for the New York Times pondered the paradox that although folks online say they care about the collection of certain personal data, not many are willing to pay to avoid it.
The post cited a study where about 500 people in a lab were given the option of buying movie tickets from one of two online companies. Both companies asked for names, dates of birth, and e-mail addresses. One company also asked for a mobile phone number in exchange for a discount of 65 cents for the tickets. Fewer than one in three participants (29%) agreed to pay the extra money to keep their cell phone number out of the hands of the online movie ticket company. Only 9% agreed to pay a premium to avoid getting marketing e-mails.
Similarly, Pew Research has found that nine out of 10 people surveyed said they were satisfied with the performance of search engines. And yet 68% said they were “not O.K.” with targeted advertising because they did not like their “online behavior tracked and analyzed.”
Hopefully this enduring paradox is not lost on legislators, who are being pressed by the self-anointed "privacy" industry to pass laws that either limit online tracking or make opt-out the default choice on data collection.
But I think the idea of paying not to be marketed to has traction already. Most certainly one of the reasons my cable bill runs to $250 a month is so I can get programming uninterrupted by commercials (well, the nudity and slow-motion violence don't hurt either). As part of that cost, I’m paying for a trio of cable-owned DVRs so I can tape nearly everything that is not on the premium tiers. I can watch a network show in 40 minutes instead of 60, and a football or basketball game in minutes rather than hours, by skipping past the seemingly endless commercials.
Why stop there? I would pay the postal service $5 a month to stop delivering those annoying flyers and marketing postcards. Although I throw out 99% of the catalogues that come by snail mail, one will occasionally grab my attention, so those aren't as onerous. I would be happy to have the .0007 cents of the pro rata share of money theaters get to show me commercials before the feature starts, added to my ticket price. Some classical music would be sufficient and welcome.
Although I don't really mind newspaper ads (except the bulk inserts in the Sunday edition, which are pretty easy to pitch all at once) I would let the local paper add a few bucks a year to stop putting ad stickers on the front page and using those wraps that cover a quarter of the section. Oddly, they are always from the same mattress company -- and just as oddly, I would never set foot in their store simply BECAUSE of the wraps.
Loyal readers already know I pay for satellite radio in all of my cars. To me, radio advertising is about the most annoying and torturous form of marketing ever invented --right up there with not-very-attractive young adults trying to spray you as you walk past them in department stores.
Even though I have signed up for every Do Not Call list I can find, I still get those unwanted phone calls -- and I still hang up on them. Add another few bucks to my monthly phone bill so I don't have to get up from the table to slam down the receiver.
Would I pay not to be tracked online? Not really. I kind of like getting ads from places where I routinely shop online -- or their competition. I often click on Google ads since I figure they probably have the item I am looking for. Over the years, the ability to deduce my real interests has gotten decidedly more sophisticated and accurate. This is not to endorse any and all kinds of online ad units (not a big fan of auto-play video, have to admit), but I am happy to see fewer smack-the-monkey ads and more that really interest me.