Australians are sceptical about trading personal data for free stuff

Angus Kidman 31 January 2017

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Just 17% of us think it's a good idea.

Rule of life #47: if you're getting something for free, then you're the product. Why does Google offer so many cool free services? So it can gather personal data, the better to flog advertising. It's a trade-off we're frequently willing to make, but one we need to be aware of.

A recent study by GfK suggests Australians are becoming more alert to that issue. In Australia, just 17% of us agree that we'd be willing to share personal details such as health information or energy use in return for "benefits or rewards", while 27% are sure we wouldn't. The rest of us? We're on the fence.

In global terms, that puts us somewhere in the middle. We're not as cynical as the Germans, where 40% said a definite "no", but nor are we racing to give up information like the Chinese, where 38% were willing to share their details.

In Australia, there's a little variation by gender and age, as you can see in the chart below. Most notably, the older we get, the more reluctant we are to share information in return for services.

Other figures paint a different picture, however. For instance, 11.5 million Australians are signed up for Qantas Frequent Flyer, and more than 10 million of us have joined flybuys. That suggests that our theoretical desire to keep information private is frequently cast aside with the allure of freebies.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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