Deals for Your Personal Info:
Is your cell phone bill is too high, want a coupon for free coffee, or a free entrée at your favorite local restaurant? Well, there may be a way for you to cut that cell phone bill down and get other deals as long as don't mind giving up some personal info for the cost savings. Your service provider wants to know as much about you as you let them. For example, where are you right now? What websites do you visit regularly? Which friends do you text the most? Do you have an Instragram, Twitter, and Facebook account? How often do you "Like" something on Facebook or comment on Yelp? Are you willing to let your service provider know you a little or a lot better especially if they give you a little something in return?
Amdocs, a data research company, conducted a survey of typical cell phone users, here's what they found.
"The survey showed that 57% of customers would share more personal information with service providers—such as their location; purchasing history; Facebook likes and comments; top five Facebook friends’ names; information from social networks; and TV/YouTube viewing history—if they received cash rewards in return, coupons for exclusive deals, personal offerings from service providers and/or loyalty program points."
Privacy Concerns: Yeah Not So Much
It appears you are more than willing to share your personal information if you get something out of it. This essentially allows you to use your personal data as currency which is a very cool concept. That's very attractive, since you can apparently decide what data is shared. While most consumers seem to be OK with this, consider Nordstrom's experience.
"Retail giant Nordstrom learned the hard way that shoppers are not always comfortable with sharing information through Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, it told shoppers it was using its Wi-Fi network to track their movements in stores in order to learn about browsing and shopping patterns. Customer complaints subsequently prompted Nordstrom to discontinue its Wi-Fi tracking."
Service providers and well as other companies interested in your data should be aware that you, the consumer, can and will fight back if you don't like how your data is being used.
Possible Unintended Consequences:
While this may seem all well and good at the surface, let's dig a little deeper. Is there a downside?
- Do your top five Facebook friends have any say in what's shared about them just because you wanted a $5 coupon for Starbucks or $15 off your next cell phone bill? What about all those photos you uploaded to Instagram, are the people in those photos and the locations where they were taken still private if you sold them for rewards points, coupons, or discounts?
- Is your location data really harmless? Consider the following scenario, you drive to your local sports bar to watch the Bears game, you stay for over four hours, you used your bank card to pay for food and alcohol, and then you drive home. Maybe you think how you spent your Sunday afternoon isn't a big deal, especially if you're going to get a coupon for free hot wings at the bar for next weeks game. However, what if that information is made available to your car insurance company; your rates just went up! Why? Because you're much more likely to have driven home under the influence and are therefore a riskier driver.
- So you watch the Bears every weekend at this bar, you’re probably frying your liver too. Guess what can happen to your medical insurance premiums since you clearly have alcoholic tendencies. You better really enjoy those free hot wings, because they may be costing you far more than you realize.
- What if your employer had access to what you do after you leave work? How often you go to the local bar, eat a little too much Ben & Jerry's, and how often you check personal emails and use social media during work hours. They’d learn that you’re likely to Tweet about the series finale of Breaking Bad or the season premiere of The Walking Dead during working hours. Guess what happened to your raise, you slacker.
Wait a minute; maybe this isn't so cool after all, strive for balance between what you share and the benefit you'll receive
The desire for service providers and other companies to know all about you and what you do is not going anywhere. The scenarios described above may seem a bit far fetched and admittedly require level of data sharing and coordination that’s probably not happening right now, but don’t expect it to stay that way. Some things are certainly harmless, but others may not be. Nothing is ever completely free, even the most benign idea can have a downside. It can be extremely appealing to get a little something for you sharing your personal data, but don't be so eager to give up the goods without some understanding. You need to pay attention to who’s asking and what they intend to do with your personal information. Your info is valuable and potentially dangerous, so be careful who you give it to, regardless of the offer. And if you don’t like what’s happening, don’t be afraid to push back or opt out.