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Personal Data: Will Consumers Protect It, Or Monetise It?

Phil Pomford, General Manager Asia-Pac, Worldpay | Dec. 21, 2016
Research from Worldpay suggests that many may be willing to use their own personal data as a form of currency, and exchange it for goods or services.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

In August 2016, WhatsApp announced a controversial new privacy policy - revealing that it would start sharing user data with the messaging platform's parent company Facebook.

There was an outcry around the world as consumers rallied against the sharing of data. Hong Kong's privacy commissioner Stephen Wong Kai-yi urged WhatsApp to offer "simple and user-friendly ways" to opt out of sharing data with Facebook, and the South China Morning Post reported negative sentiment from Hong Kongers with privacy concerns - some of whom were even considering switching their communications to another app, like Line.

WhatsApp's divisive new data sharing policy has certainly brought the question of data monetisation to the forefront of consumers' minds. Many companies already sell personal data about where we browse, travel and shop; data that is gathered from browser cookies, third-party websites and mobile apps. Others, such as Alibaba in China, collect that data for internal use - analysing shoppers' eCommerce habits and personal information to create more targeted marketing campaigns and even develop new products.

Some consumers are choosing to opt out of sharing their information, but research from Worldpay suggests that many others may be willing to use their own personal data as a form of currency, and exchange it for goods or services. Whilst many are concerned over privacy, fraud, and brands knowing too much about them, nearly half of consumers surveyed globally said they would be happy to share personal data in return for additional products and services. 

The interest in monetising data, rather than fighting for more data privacy, is especially strong in developing countries such as China. Worldpay has found that consumers in China are among the most likely in the world to monetize their personal data; with over half (55%) of Chinese consumers said they would be willing to share their personal data in return for additional services and functionality when purchasing content online.

Unsurprisingly, younger consumers in China are more than twice as likely as their parents and grandparents to trade personal data for services. As in the rest of the world, these digital natives are more comfortable interacting with brands online and take it for granted that companies will get their hands on the data, one way or another. Sixty-seven percent of 18-24 year olds surveyed by Worldpay in China said they would be open to monetising their personal data, versus just 31% of respondents aged 55 and older.

It appears, then, that consumers are shifting away from a passive acceptance of data sharing and instead seeking meaningful, assertive ways to monetise their personal data assets. With an increasingly sophisticated understanding of how businesses use their data, consumers have a desire to take back control and reap the benefits of data sharing for themselves. If data is a form of capital, consumers want something in return for giving out their personal information.


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