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Convenience versus privacy

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Publication of our new insurance study about Digital Reinvention is right around the corner – time for a second sneak peek at some of the data. Last time I talked about the changes in trust, today we will have a look at the privacy / convenience trade-off.

Conventional wisdom says that as the world is becoming more interconnected, more people are willing to share their data, especially if the get some kind of value out of it, whether it is a better price, better service or, in the case of insurance, better security. Is conventional wisdom right? Have a look at the following chart:


This is just a subset of the questions we asked on the topic, but the trend in these (and in the others I didn’t show) is pretty clear: consumers are willing to share their data for value, but less so if behavior is measured than if it is just a “status check”.[1]

How has this changed over time? If your guess was that acceptance has gone up (as mine was), you would have been wrong. Compared to 2007, when we last asked the question for the “Trust, transparency and technology” study, the numbers have actually gone slightly down.[2]

What about the trend-setter for interconnection, the U.S. of A? Americans don’t care about privacy, right? Again, no – for all 10 privacy questions we asked, the numbers in the U.S. were lower than the global average, from 0.5% (“Sensors are installed in your house. In the case of fire / water the fire brigade is automatically notified”) to 14.6% (“A small video camera is installed in your car. When dangerous behavior occurs (e.g. excessive speed, carelessness) an alarm goes off”).

Ok, then what about going forward? Surely young people are less concerned about privacy and will share their data – just look at what they post on social networks.

Nope – here is the chart:


With the exception of health data, millennials – i.e. people under 30 who grew up connected – are somewhat less accepting of data sharing than people over 50. No dramatic difference, but the numbers show that young people are well aware of privacy issues – sharing with friends is not at all the same as sharing with companies.

When you put these privacy data together with the trust data from my last post, I think the message is clear: as long as the insurance industry doesn’t make an (concerted) effort to raise trust overall, the acceptance of data sharing probably won’t change all that much. On the other hand, even at current trust levels, people are willing to trade privacy for convenience, security and/or price, so a market is there. Maybe for the insurance industry that’s the way to go to increase trust?



[1] I simplified the wording for the charts – as this was an insurance survey, all of the questions where either worded for security or insurance pricing. E.g. driving behavior was a pricing question.

[2] We had a lot less countries in T3, so I had to compare a subset of the 2013 sample.

Insurance Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value

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