Trading away personal info — twilight of privacy?

Imagine you’re visiting a mall and occasionally someone stops you and asks for some personal information: Your favorite places to shop? Things you like to purchase? Brands you like? … You’re told that as a reward for providing that information you’ll get a gift certificate. What if that happens to you on the street, just walking around your city. Any difference in your reaction?

Imagine you’re at home and setting up some new gadgets (maybe home automation modules or some Internet of Things smart devices) and you get to the step where you need to agree to some Terms and Conditions, including a Privacy Policy, which covers collection of personal data. If you agree to all the terms, you’ll get a monthly credit or rewards points. Do you say okay?

Imagine you’ve been given an in-home robotic butler or artificially intelligent personal assistant. The proviso is that you need to share your habits, likes, contacts, and personal schedule with the device. Maybe you do not even share all of that with family members and friends, eh. Creepy? A fair trade?

And imagine that in all these scenarios that some or all of your personal information is sold to marketing companies.

Do you draw the line somewhere? That’s the question addressed in a recent Pew Research report, as noted in a Washington Post article called “When is it worth giving up your data? Americans aren’t quite sure.

Would you trade information about when you’re in your house — and in what rooms — for the promise of cheaper energy bills, even if that means you’re sending this data to a distant tech company?

Often, the benefits to giving up personal information are obvious: Cheaper energy bills or a convenient way to swipe into a transit system. The potential pitfalls can be more abstract. For example, it’s hard to tell what the consequences could be down the road if a company is tracking your web browsing today.

Read the full article for more details about the scenarios which were explored and participants’ responses.