Like many people in this business I've been thinking a lot about data privacy these last few weeks. So when I see a headline from Research-Live come into my email saying, "Half of consumers willing to share their data, says survey," I wonder what's up because it doesn't quite gel with other data I'm seeing. On close examination it's only 45% and there are other hedges as you go down through the piece. Most importantly, the right verb for the headline probably is "sell" rather than "share." It turns about to be not terribly earth-shattering despite noble attempts by the sponsor and spokesperson for the company that did the work to make it sound special.
The real issue for me is not the numbers; it's whether I should believe any of what this piece says. I would like to know at least something about how this research was done beyond the N and the countries where people were interviewed. Was it online? How was the sample drawn? Who provided it? How were the questions worded? Was their weighting? And so on. I spent a few minutes searching the web for more info, but all I got was more links to the same unhelpful press release.
I don't mean to be singling out the good folks at Research-Live. This stunning lack of transparency is now commonplace in virtually all media channels. Online has made it possible for pretty much anybody to do a survey, whether they know or care about what they are doing or not. The web is awash in press releases with exciting findings from surveys, often with zero detail to help the reader understand whether those findings have any real meaning or are just cherry-picked from a bullshit survey. All of this is one more reason why the public has such low regard for surveys and why late night comedians can create an immediate giggle in their audience by saying, "There's a new survey out today . . ."
As it turns out, there is another survey on the same topic and with a similar finding:
According to the survey, 57 percent of consumers are willing to share additional personal information, such as their location, top five Facebook friends' names and information about family members, in return for financial rewards or better service, while 54 percent would even allow this data to be passed on to a third party, under the right conditions.
No details on the methodology used for this survey either. And I'm not going to jump to any conclusions just because the survey was released on the same day the sponsor announced a new suite of online data management and analytic products.
But I wonder whether the survey asked about throwing grandma in to get a better price?