When pollsters ask Americans about privacy, most say they are concerned about losing it. An MSNBC.com survey, which will be covered in detail on Tuesday, found an overwhelming pessimism about privacy, with 60 percent of respondents saying they feel their privacy is “slipping away, and that bothers me.”This doesn't suprise me at all. The media and politicians keep repeating that Americans are losing their privacy, but the average American doesn't know what the hell they are talking about.
Only a tiny fraction of Americans – 7 percent, according to a recent survey by The Ponemon Institute – change any behaviors in an effort to preserve their privacy. Few people turn down a discount at toll booths to avoid using the EZ-Pass system that can track automobile movements.
And few turn down supermarket loyalty cards. Carnegie Mellon privacy economist Alessandro Acquisti has run a series of tests that reveal people will surrender personal information like Social Security numbers just to get their hands on a measly 50-cents-off coupon.
If they rephrased the poll questions to ask "Do you care if Madison Avenue knows what you bought for lunch last week?" the answer is going to be a resounding 'meh.'
Most of the data that corporations have about us is really inconsequential. And if it means that you get to buy your Cherios for a couple cents less that's a price that most American's are willing to pay.