Would you pay $5,000 to use Google?
'Free services' such as Gmail and search usually require users to share a certain amount of personal information -- and that may be worth more than you think.
New research finds people fork over $5,000 worth of personal information a year to Google in exchange for access to its "free services" such as Gmail and search. While many view this as a fair trade, privacy experts say the Internet giant's latest plan to pool user data from its various sites make it less so.
Experts say that information is more valuable than people may think. Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of Reputation.com, one of a slew of new paid -- and free -- services to help consumers keep their Web use anonymous, says personal information can be worth between $50 and $5,000 per person per year to advertisers and market researchers -- depending on how much they spend and how useful the information is to third parties. Fertik says this explains why online breaches are so lucrative and on the rise.
Others say the data may be worth billions of dollars to social networking sites and online marketing agencies. "Their entire market cap is related to how much data is being collected and used," says Jules Polonetsky, the director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
There are ways consumers can block online tracking, however. "Use private browsing, that's Lesson 101," Fertik says. For instance, the FireFox Web browser comes with a "Do Not Track" option via "Options," "Privacy" and "Tracking." Reputation cleanup sites can also remove customers' details from the world's biggest direct marketing associations and data brokers. Post continues below.
The European Union announced new proposals Wednesday to keep online data private. In the United States, there is a growing chorus of lawmakers who want to do the same. Currently, there are no state or federal limits (.pdf file) on what information can be collected or with whom it can be shared, according to John M. Simpson, the director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, a nonprofit in California. Online data gathered can also be used in marketing housing, insurance and financial services, Simpson says.
For its part, Google policy explicitly states it will never sell users' personal information or share it without their permission. Fertik says, "The word 'sell' is very loaded. They share or trade data."
But while people say they are concerned about their online privacy, some studies show that they do little to protect it -- especially when it comes to what they share on social-networking sites.
Simpson says people need to be better educated about how to protect their data: A 2010 poll conducted by research firm Grove Insight for Consumer Watchdog said 86% of Americans favored the creation of an easy-to-use "anonymous button" that allows individuals to stop anyone from tracking them online. Others say consumers find the convenience of using one company's myriad of integrated online services compelling.
"There is a struggle between the titans of the Internet to provide a seamless experience that captures all your attention -- and all your data," Polonetsky says.
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Come on, Google, "don't be evil".
It's the Internet, people will never be educated enough to use it. got to many idiots in the world. There should be an Internet test, where if you don't pass it, you don't get to use it.
i don't think its worth 5.000 because companys would have to sell 50.000 in goods and services from these targeted ads to make a profit
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