Indeed, many consumers do not even check Web site privacy policies when they divulge their sensitive personally identifiable information. Yet, according to a recent report, when consumers are given a specific choice, many may actually pay more money during a transaction in return for privacy protection.
The report, prepared by Lorrie Cranor, who directs the Carnegie Mellon Usable Privacy and Security Labs, documents that consumers would pay an extra 60 cents for privacy protection on purchases of $15. Cranor came to this result by way of a hypothetical experiment.
Of course, it is possible that the participants were more sensitive to their privacy when dealing with a sex toy purchase than they would be when purchasing more routine items. Yet, the implications of personally identifiable information getting into the wrong hands can be significant even when obtained from routine purchase transactions.
The study included only 72 participants. Thus, it is far from conclusive. A real-world experience would be more telling. If two companies offered similar competing products for sale on the Internet, only one of the two companies clearly provided written assurances of privacy protection for an extra cost, and consumers chose to purchase the products from that company for a higher price, that would really indicate something serious.
In the meantime, talk is cheap. If you want your privacy to be protected, be careful out there, and examine how companies handle your personally identifiable data.
is a partner in the San Francisco office of . His focus includes information technology and intellectual-property disputes. To receive his weekly columns, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Subscribe" in the subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only, and it should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.