Larry Downes comments on yesterday’s FTC roundtable as well as a recent survey in discussing the so-called “privacy paradox.” He writes, in part:
As I write in Law Two of The Laws of Disruption (“Personal Information”), researchers, advocacy groups and their colleagues in the mainstream media have for years been describing what they call “the privacy paradox.” User surveys consistently find that consumers are concerned (even “very concerned”) about their privacy online, and yet do nothing to protect it. They don’t read privacy policies, they don’t protect their information even when given the tools to do so, and they merrily click on targeted advertisements and even buy things that online merchants deduce they might want to buy.
Oh, the humanity.
I see no paradox here. Much of the research conducted about consumer concerns over privacy is of extremely poor quality—surveys or experiments conducted by interested parties (security companies) or legal scholars with little to no appreciation for the science of polling. Of course consumers are concerned about privacy and are uncomfortable with concepts like “behavioral” or “targeted” advertising. No one ever asks if they understand what those terms really mean, or if they’d be willing to give up free services to avoid them. And consumers when they’re being surveyed are very likely to think differently about their “attitudes” than when they are busily transacting and navigating their information pathways.