Saturday, January 13, 2007

Privacy...Schmivacy... Balancing Personal Information with Service

A recent eMarketer article - "Is Privacy Overrated?" shares some interesting information about a "Personalization Survey" from ChoiceStream. They report that giving up personal information for more personalized content has a pendular affect.

In 2004, 63% of people who were 18-34 were willing to divulge Demographic information in order to obtain personalized content. In 2005, that number dropped to 47%. In 2006, it rebounded back to 63%. When we're talking about people over 35, the numbers are 2004: 49%, 2005: 46% and 2006: 54%. When we put things into context, 2005 was a pretty sketchy year for personal information, privacy invasion concerns and other geo-political events that made people a little more nervous about giving up their information, but apparently, they got over it and are now giving up more information.

The other part of that survey was about people giving up personalized information to a site so that it could track their clicks and purchases.

For 18-34 year olds, in 2004 it was 48%. This dropped in 2005 to 35% and back up for 2006 to 49%. The over 35 crowd remained a bit more skeptical, in 2004 it was 33%, which took a slight hit in 2005 to 29%, then rallied up to 38%.

The data here is very interesting, while it exposes an interesting behavioral trend, I wanted to take a look at what this means for consumers and marketers.

From the article:

"Consumers are overwhelmed with the vast array of content and choices coming at them every day online. They want guidance, even though they want the freedom to make their own choices and to explore the data if they want to," said Esther Dyson, editor of the blog Release 0.9 and an advisor to ChoiceStream.
While it's an interesting point that consumers are overwhelmed, I don't think that tells the full story.

2005 and '06 had some big stories about identity theft, MySpace stalking, data loss, government domestic observation and other news that really hit at the core of peoples' sense of security. I would find it interesting to research how online marketers changed their tactics to expressely address security concerns to their users, while at the same time, tried to understand what their users wanted so that they could provide the right value to the consumer.

Time will tell if this effect is pendular, we may see these numbers fall again, or they may continue to rise. However, i think that the lesson of privacy, personal information and trust to the online market is something that will be ever-present, and we'll also see if online marketers keep the lessons learned, or will they (if the trust continues to rise) accept the status quo.

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