It’s the Internet’s newest favourite adage: if you don’t pay for a product, you are the product. There’s a lot of truth there. Free online services generally harvest your data in some way or another and sell the information to advertisers—if you’re lucky. Most users are aware of that—but how much would we pay to avoid all that?
According to a study from the University of Colorado, you’d pay about $5. Researchers surveyed 1,700 smartphone users, presenting them with a series of apps. One was real and free, available for download on iTunes. The rest were hypothetical versions that did the same thing as the free app, except that they had different degrees of privacy. Some concealed browser history, others concealed contacts, etc. Based on feedback from the smartphone users, researchers found that people will pay “$2.28 to conceal their browser history, $4.05 to conceal their list of contacts, $1.19 to conceal their location, $1.75 to conceal their phone’s identification number, and $3.58 to conceal the contents of their text messages.” Also, they’d pay $2.12 for no advertising.
Given that the “average” app, as determined by a survey of 15,000 Android apps, has advertising, location access, and access to a phone’s ID, the researchers determined that consumers would pay five bucks for an app that didn’t have access to any of that. Sounds fair to us.
Then again, a smart app developer would just charge you and then keep harvesting data anyway. Personally, we like people to be upfront about screwing us.