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How much do you think your personal data is worth?

Fotolia 84703119 XSWould you use different network services if it gave you more privacy? While the industry debates the finer points of RF between Wi-Fi and traditional cellular service, perhaps a more significant factor in end-user choice will be related to how their data is shared. We find that consumers are unaware of how much their private data is being shared, while at the same time Internet encryption and security continue to improve.

 

 

What is your personal data worth?

If you had to put a price on your personal data (eg email address, gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, phone number, web browsing history), how much would you want? A consumer survey by TotallyMoney of 1000 UK citizens determined an average value of £2,031 ($2,657). This seemed to me to be wildly optimistic but many would find it hard to put a figure on it.

  • -       Men valued their data 21% higher than women
  • -       Younger age range (18-24) valued it the most
  • -       Consumers priced their email address at £983 ($1,286) alone, their location £868 ($1,135)

When asked if and how much they would pay to buy a friend’s personal information, 10% would be prepared to pay on average £222 ($290).

But what do marketing companies actually pay for your personal data?

On average just 45p for 13 pieces of data.

  • -       Email 5p (7c)
  • -       Marital Status 7p (9c)
  • -       Web browsing history 0.14p (0.18c)
  • -       Current location 0.03p (0.04c)

Your health condition is the most valuable, at 17p ($22c)

Much of this information is shared by social networks. It surprised me that 40% of consumers just don’t realise that Facebook sells their personal data. Of course it’s our choice to opt in or out, but that can be difficult with a lot of peer pressure to participate in the community. In August, Facebook suddenly required all WhatsApp users to share their address book contents – names of all their friends including phone numbers and email address – or stop using the service. Most social networks operate in a similar way in order to target ads and generate income. When you click “Like” on a company Facebook page, you’d be surprised at how much personal information and insight is shared with them.

CIFAS illustrates and shocks coffee shop customers

As an example, just by offering a free coffee to anyone who “Liked” their shop, customers’ details were quickly downloaded in the time it took to brew their drink and written on their coffee cups. This short video (1:30) shows how it was done and their stunned reactions.

CIFAS, a not-for-profit fraud prevention organisation, report that 50% of young people (18-24) thought they would never fall for an online scam – they are confident because they are more tech savvy and less wealthy than older people. However identity fraud for victims under 30 is up by 52% during 2015. 18-24 year olds are less likely to have installed anti-virus software on their smartphones. Nokia just issued their Threat Intelligence Report for 1H 2016, reporting a doubling of malware infections from 1H 2015 to 1H 2016 (but only about 1% of all devices tracked, of which 74% were Android)

The CIFAS survey also revealed that over half the public would worry about using Public Wi-Fi for online banking and shopping. There was an assumption that using well known brands (of Wi-Fi) would be safer.

Two levels of security

It seems to me that there is a clear distinction between

  • -       Sharing, where you may agree to your personal data being shared with others
  • -       Interception, where data is captured by malware or wilful listening to data transmissions

Branded cellular network operators generally have a very high reputation for data privacy and don’t share your personal details with other organisations. This may differ where media is broadcast or provided on-demand, tailoring the adverts you see to match.

The amount of information you choose to share through social media is (mostly) up to you. You can address some of that by privacy settings but that won’t stop information being shared with advertisers. That includes the geo-location of every picture you’ve uploaded, and people you share interests and activities with.

Securing the transmission of your personal data is another matter, and strongly supported throughout the industry. Google and Facebook have strongly promoted the use of SSL (HTTPS) when accessing their websites, so others can’t easily snoop on what you’re viewing. 88% of Google and virtually all Facebook traffic are now encrypted. It's not completely selfless - this also prevents network operators or others from capturing much information about what you are viewing, although they can still identify which websites and URLs are visited.

US national adoption rates for encryption are lagging behind at around 37%, hampered perhaps surprisingly by Netflix which dominates peak internet traffic in that country today. This compares with 45% of all web traffic globally, 60% in South America. Mobile networks are in general carrying more encrypted traffic than on the fixed broadband network. 

Seamless Wireless Access will retain high level of trust

The perceived security concern of using public Wi-Fi for banking or shopping activity remains a barrier to take-up. Increasing levels of encryption will help but I suspect some doubts will remain.

This leads me to believe that cellular access will continue to be more highly trusted. As the cellular industry embraces unlicensed and shared spectrum for in-building use, this is also likely to retain that high degree of trust where it operates seamlessly and “just works”. If there is any unusual indication on the smartphone (eg showing a different network name, such as Walmart, Starbucks, Marriot, Hilton etc.) then this will need to be clearly explained and understood to retain that trust.

Cellular network operators have achieved a high level of confidence and integrity regarding the transmission and safeguarding of customers’ personal data. They and their partners can continue to capitalise on that as the scope of wireless connectivity continues to expand.

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