How Much is Privacy Worth Around the World and Across Platforms?
69 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2020 Last revised: 24 Dec 2020
Date Written: January 30, 2020
Data privacy has become a controversial policy issue around the world. The EU passed strict privacy rules, the state of California has rules coming into effect in 2020, and the U.S. FTC and Congress are pursuing privacy agendas. However, limited empirical evidence illuminates how much consumers value privacy or how their valuations vary across or within countries and contexts. In this paper, we measure individuals’ valuation of online privacy across a wide range of countries and data types. The online information we consider includes personal information on finances, biometrics, location, networks, communications, and web browsing. The countries we analyze include the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and Germany. We conduct these measures using carefully designed, internationally distributed, discrete choice surveys. These surveys allow us to measure tradeoffs across these aspects of online privacy, and importantly, allow us to make relative comparisons of these tradeoffs across many countries.
We find that people in Germany place the highest value on privacy compared to the U.S. and Latin American countries. Across countries, people place the highest value on keeping financial and biometric information private — balance and fingerprint data in particular. Germany’s status as the country with highest value for privacy is driven largely by extremely strong preferences for keeping financial data private. German respondents were willing to share bank balance information in exchange for monthly payments of $15.43 and cash withdrawal information for $13.42/month. People had to be paid the least for permission to receive ads, meaning people are much less concerned about ads than any of the other types of data we explored. Indeed, in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, the average respondent was willing to pay small amounts to receive ads, suggesting that people in those countries like receiving ads. Location privacy also turned out to be among the least valuable to people in every country.
We also find that women value privacy more than men do across platforms, data types, and countries and older people value privacy more than younger people. We find no real differences across income in privacy preferences.
These results are largely robust to a randomly controlled treatment, where a group of survey respondents received a written statement about the value of data collection by these entities. Preferences for privacy are generally unaffected by such a prompt, suggesting that their values of only privacy are reasonably stable and not easily influenced.
Keywords: Data Privacy, International, Conjoint, Willingness-to-Accept, Online Data, Survey, Carrier Data, Smartphone Data, Financial Data, Facebook
JEL Classification: D12, D18, H56, M38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation