When it Comes to Privacy, Survey Respondents Say One Thing, But Their Behaviors Say Something Else

Would you be willing to trade some privacy for greater convenience and ease? If you just shouted “No!” at the screen, you’re in the majority. 56% of US respondents said they wouldn’t make that trade, according to a recent poll conducted by Edelman Berland (sponsored by EMC) using a sample of 15,000 consumers from 15 countries.
And that doesn’t add up.
New York Times reporter Steve Lohr notes that “People around the world are thrilled by the ease and convenience of their smartphones and Internet services, but they aren’t willing to trade their privacy to get more of it.” But is that borne out by the evidence?
Although few respondents specifically stated that they’d be willing to “sacrifice privacy for more convenience,” the average users’ day-to-day activities seem to belie their declared preferences; their actions speak louder than their words. Myriad applications are downloaded and/or internet services activated after a user has responded affirmatively to an explicit request for permission to access private data, including contact lists and location info. Were each application request for permission accompanied with a similar survey question (“Would you be willing to sacrifice privacy to get this app?”), one wonders if the results might change a bit.
Is it possible that people are not conscious of the private information they yield when granting mobile applications and internet services permission to access their personal data?
Consider the following from Portio Research (April 2013):

The second most popular app category, overall, after games, is messaging apps, also known as over-the-top (OTT) apps. It is estimated that there are at least 1 billion OTT messaging apps users around the world. The most popular of these are: Facebook Messenger (700 million users worldwide); WeChat (300 million); What’sApp (200 million); Viber (175 million); Line (100 million); Kakao Talk (70 million); BBM (60 million); iMesssage (45 million); ChatON (10 million); Skype (10 million).
• comScore (February 2013): The top 10 smartphone apps in the US in 2012 were: Facebook (with an estimated reach of 76 percent of US smartphone users); Google Maps (65.9 percent); Google Play (54.3 percent); Google Search (53.5 percent); Gmail (47.6 percent); YouTube (46.4 percent); Pandora Radio (42 percent); Apple iTunes (41 percent); Cooliris (38 percent); Yahoo! Messenger (32 percent).

And the majority of these directly access private data… for the sake of convenience. Will we begin to see the actions of users align with their stated preferences? Whether or not that begins to make companies change their approach to privacy awareness, remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the average app use says one thing, and does another.

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