Would you exchange personal information for bigger discounts?

The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) recently set out to answer this very question – how many people would be willing to give up more personal information in exchange for bigger discounts or a better price.

ENISA conducted its research on a cross section of the community under strictly controlled laboratory conditions, they even utilized a lie detector to ensure honest responses. ENISA put two simple scenarios to the subjects:

Scenario One:

Firm A  and Firm B are selling an identical product at an identical price. Firm A however requests one more item of personal information than Firm B, something like a mobile phone number for example. Which vendor would you choose?

No surprises to learn that 8 out of every 10 subjects opted to buy from Firm B, the vendor requesting the lesser amount of personal information (I am assuming the remainder either opted to give out the additional information or just didn’t care – the report doesn’t clarify).

Scenario 2:

Firm A is selling an item for $10.00. Firm B is selling the identical item for $8.30 (a 17% discount) but requesting more personal information than Firm A. Which would you choose?

Now here’s the surprise, two thirds of the subjects elected to give up the additional information and buy from Firm B at the discounted price. One can only surmise that an increased rate of discount would entice even more buyers to relent.

ENISA rightly concluded that, although we do actually care about privacy, when it comes to saving a buck most are prepared to put those concerns aside:

The laboratory experiment also shows that the majority of consumers buy from a more privacy-invasive provider if the service provider charges a lower price.

The ENISA team went on the make various recommendations, including these two:

  • When there is no price difference, the vendor who requests less data from a customer can obtain a competitive advantage so long as it’s obvious to the consumer
  • Online service providers should provide consumers different menus with respect to price and personal data requirement

Personally, I have foregone many bargains in the past because of what I consider overly intrusive information gathering. There is certain information I will not divulge regardless of the situation or how much money can be saved. I would never give out my actual birth date for example, a close proximity maybe but never the real DOB. Here in Oz, very few details are required for proof of identity purposes – usually name, address and DOB. Anyone who has that information can be you!

Now, before you jump in boots and all I want you to consider this, and be honest: it’s very easy to come down on the side of privacy given a hypothetical scenario, where no actual savings are accrued. In real world situations however, the choice becomes much more difficult.

So, would you give up additional information in exchange for a cheaper price?

1 thought on “Would you exchange personal information for bigger discounts?”

  1. Hey Jim,
    Exactly as you say, in a real world situation however, the choice becomes much more difficult. So, I have to go with “depends on the combination of personal info, discount offered and how badly I need/ want the item” with certain info being a no-go under any circumstances.

    Saving a buck isn’t worth giving out even the slightest of personal information. A significant discount on an item I badly need but can’t afford in full price would have me pondering. For instance, I never give out my (unlisted) home phone number as my home is my harbor, so non-personal calls (especially promotional calls) equal to intrusion/ violation. I’m more flexible with my business mobile number, but I never use my personal or business email addresses for promotions or discounts.

    But giving out certain personal info, like ID number or date of birth as you already mentioned, is not worth any savings – hell, even for a job position, I agreed to give this out only when the job was mine.

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