back to article Which? survey finds people would actually pay the online giants not to take their data

Consumer guardian Which? has attempted to put a price on people's personal information as it ramps up pressure for tougher rules around data-ravenous tech giants such as Google and Facebook. The British consumer champion has repeatedly argued that people are uncomfortable about the amount of data collected and stored by tech …

  1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

    I guess in a couple of years we pay for the promise of not being spied upon, while the online giant spy on us anyway.

    win-win situation.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Yes: they get something from us, and we, in return, give something to them.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      > I guess in a couple of years

      Came here to say the same thing. The only thing I disagree with is the "couple years", it's already happening now:

      Initially you had "paid and ad-free", and "free but ad-riddled and spying". Nowadays you still have the latter, but the former has morphed into "paid, but nevertheless ad-riddled and spying". Or, pay for an eye-wateringly expensive appliance, yet have it carpet bomb you with ads and spy on you. Because you're worth it.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    It should have never been legal to ask for payment in form of personal data. This is in pure form a tax avoidance - as although the value is exchanged, the VAT is not paid on that. As if Facebook created "its" asset out of thin air.

    If HMRC was going to do its job instead of going after low hanging fruit, they should have looked into that years ago.

    I think it shouldn't be legal to offer "customer is the product" type of services - people giving up their data only help unscrupulous companies exploit them using very granular targeting, life events, their vulnerabilities and then make them buy things they don't want nor need.

    And this is just one of aspects.

    In ideal world we would never have allowed services like Facebook to operate.

  3. Filippo Silver badge

    This makes sense, but there are a bunch of problems that need solving.

    To begin with, I suspect the amount users are willing to pay is a lot lower than what the services make from targeted advertising, which means that the services won't offer a paid-for privacy option.

    Next, the simple existance of a paid-for privacy option would shine, by contrast, a bright light on the default no-privacy option. Users would start wondering what exactly they are getting for their money, and therefore what they are not getting with the default option. I suspect the service providers would strongly prefer users not to think too much about that.

    Finally, I personally would not trust Facebook or Google to really not slurp my data. I would strongly suspect them to still be slurping, under whatever justification they can find (the words "aggregate only" and "non personally identifiable" would probably appear), and taking my money to boot.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      I suspect the amount users are willing to pay is a lot lower than what the services make from targeted advertising

      This is very simple - if a service is bad enough that majority of people don't want to pay for it and as a result company cannot afford to run it, then it just means the service is not viable and shouldn't run.

      the default no-privacy option

      That option shouldn't be legal, but give how much money these corporations have amassed, they can buy any politician in the position of power, or smear them if they don't comply.

      Finally, I personally would not trust Facebook or Google to really not slurp my data.

      Indeed. They would probably have taken the data anyway and if by any chance something about it leaked, it would be "oh well, apols it was a bug." and money would flow to appropriate bodies to shut down any investigation.

    2. Aitor 1


      I have a huge issue with companies making day £0.50 per user per month that want £4.99 for no ads.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      I use a couple of tech forums and podcasts, where I explicitly pay for an ad-free experience. The problem is, I can't afford to that for every site I visit, and some sites I only visit every few months, so a regular payment is not feasible.

      I am happy to view adverts at those sites, but not at the expense of my privacy. I block known tracking sites, including most of Google and all of the Facebook based domains (around 2,500 last time I looked). If they want to show me ads, show me ads targeted at the page I'm reading, don't infringe my privacy, it is very simple.

    4. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Back of the envelope computations

      Google earns $60B per quarter, and Facebook $30B. Meaning that even if every person on the planet was equally profitable to them (and UK users are definitely more profitable than people in, say, India or China), that means they earn on average ~$3 per month per person.

      How much less would they be earning without the use of privacy data? That's how much we need to pay.

  4. fidodogbreath

    I suspect that the percentage willing to pay will drop substantially when prompted to enter their credit card number.

    This also raises the issue of privacy only being available to those with the means to pay for it, while everyone else gets their lives strip-mined in the name of 'relevant' ads.

    That said, the scenario posted by ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo is probably more likely. Does anyone think that Google (e.g.) actually stops collecting your location and browsing data when you turn off location history and browsing history? Of course not. They just don't show it to you anymore.

    1. Swarthy

      Google said it was "advancing the field of privacy-preserving technology… [to give people] confidence the illusion that their privacy and choices are respected."

    2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      --privacy only being available to those with the means to pay for it--

      Interesting alternative: not interested in those who don't pay for privacy because they can't afford to buy what we're advertising.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > because they can't afford to buy what we're advertising

        Sorry, those who pay are the advertisers, not the hapless crowd drowned in ads.

        And Google/Facebook will know how to keep them believing they're spending their advertising budget wisely. After all they have managed to make them believe "targeted" advertisement (i.e., ads for stuff you just bought) works!

    3. Cuddles

      "I suspect that the percentage willing to pay will drop substantially when prompted to enter their credit card number."

      Indeed. You can already choose to pay fairly trivial amounts for not having your emails read by Google, as just one example. How many actually bother to do so? Even free options like using Firefox or installing NoScript are too much for most. People will say all kinds of things if you ask them a question. Actual actions backing their answers up are much more rare.

  5. alain williams Silver badge

    Why should I need to pay ?

    I have not agreed for them to take my data in a way that is specific and informed, also my data should not have been taken out of the EU/UK without extra safeguards - which I suspect mostly does not happen.

    Firing up some cookie policy with unintelligible wording is not informed, it is not freely given if to view a web site their T&Cs try to bind me forever without the practical right to be forgotten.

    In theory individuals can control their own data, in practice the multinationals piss all over us.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why should I need to pay ?

      Exactly. I should not have to pay Google to keep my data private, if they want to use my data THEY should pay ME.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Why should I need to pay ?

        " if they want to use my data THEY should pay ME."

        They DO pay you, in kind, by providing a multitude of services for free. If you want to use another eg mail provider that doesn't scan your mail or serve you ads, you pay them

        1. NATTtrash

          Re: Why should I need to pay ?

          They DO pay you, in kind, by providing a multitude of services for free.

          Hmmm, I understand what you are trying to say. This of course is the rhetoric that has been used ever since Tripod decided to put ads on your personal pages.

          What this completely ignores though is that a "sale" or "commercial transaction" that you suggest, starts with intent and a informed choice to engage into a commercial action. Or more simple: according what you write here, you are OK with for example the tax authorities automatically withdrawing large amounts from your private bank account because they expect your income to be in the top 1% best earners in the UK. Or Aston Martin to withdraw the price of a DB4 because they expect you to buy one soon.

          In real life it is logical that you pay for services if you use them. So, why are you paying for Google search, GMail, FaceBook News, or what ever, if you never ever use them?

          But hey, if you want to stress the "providing" aspect you mention: I can provide you with a lot of services too. Please feel free to transfer £ 99.99/ mo to my bank account.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Why should I need to pay ?

            You're right that G, F etc do not make it clear that hey, you can use our website for free on the condition that we get to play with your data. It's buried in the T&Cs.

            But the analogies you make aren't that accurate, in the sense that by opening up a gmail or facebook account, people are themselves requesting the service, and by using the service they are providing the data.

            What your analogy is more like is where F, G etc have their claws in almost every other 3rd-party site and harvest people's data even if they don't have a F or G account.

            Either way it's nasty, and there has to be far more clarity of what's going on, and far more meaningful restrictions built in to both law and the infrastructure of the internet.

            1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

              Re: Why should I need to pay ?

              What your analogy is more like is where F, G etc have their claws in almost every other 3rd-party site and harvest people's data even if they don't have a F or G account.

              Which is exactly what they do. All those sites with the cute "f" logo etc - most of them include code that means Faecesborg can tell what you are reading without you having given them any permission whatsoever to do so.

    2. Julz

      Re: Why should I need to pay ?

      I was about to say something similar. What this survey is showing is that people are willing to pay a thief to not rob them.

      1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Re: Why should I need to pay ?

        No, it's not at all like that. OK, it's only a bit like that.

        If you use Gmail, or Earth, or Google search, or ... then you are using a service without paying any money for it. That service does cost money to provide.

        Analogy. You employ a butler (yes, bear with me) or cleaner, or cook, or whatever domestic service. They offer you two choices - either pay them in cash, or they can work for "nothing" but will feel free to rifle through all your private paperwork and sell your information to others. Were it like that then it would be a choice - you either pay with cash, or you pay with privacy.

        But all these online services don't offer that choice, and enough people use the service to make the data slurping worthwhile. So it's not so much a case of paying someone not to rob you, it's a case of paying someone for a service vs them monetising you to pay for your use of that service. So in that respect, there's no element of paying someone not to rob you - because it's a simple case of you using a service and either paying in cash or paying in kind.

        Where it breaks down is where you don't use a service. I don't use Faecesborg, have no intension of doing so, yet I know (thanks Mr Schrems) that they will ILLEGALLY have a significant pile of information on me. In respect of that, and only that, you would be correct in saying that it's like paying someone not to rob you.

        Sadly, it's long past the point where any of these piles of scum would be able to convince me that I could trust them to honour any sort of "I pay you, you stop stalking me when I use your services" sort of agreement. They've all demonstrated quite clearly that their only concern is to obfuscate things for their own benefit. And they've clearly demonstrated that they think the only thing they've ever done wrong was getting caught. But roll back a decade or two, and they might have succeeded in offering a "cash or kind" offering.

  6. Splurg The Barbarian

    Surely we pay enough already?

    Surely we pay enough to Google already? For every Android device sold Google takes a minimum of $2.50 from the manufacturer up to $40 with an average of $20 per device.

    There was a bit of a drop in devices sold in 2020 but still meant 1.05 billion phones. At $2.50 that's $2.625 Billion & at the average that's $21 billion.

    From that I'd argue Google makes enough money without being a stalking, privacy invader and asking for more to respect individuals.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Surely we pay enough already?

      The manufacturers want to pay for Android because they also get to use the spyware APIs.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Surely we pay enough already?

      > Google makes enough money without being a stalking, privacy invader

      Define "enough money".

    3. Dinanziame Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Surely we pay enough already?

      I don't know where you get the idea that Google is getting paid for Android? Android is supposed to be free. Maybe you are confusing Google with Microsoft forcing manufacturers to license their patents allegedly infringed by Android?

      In any case, even if Google did get paid that much for Android, it wouldn't be even 20% of the money they actually earn selling ads.

      EDIT: found what you meant. Due to the EU ruling, Google charges manufacturers this fee, and lets them earn back the fee by adding certain Google apps and giving them a percentage of the revenue.

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Relevance and utility

    "everyone else gets their lives strip-mined in the name of 'relevant' ads"

    I have a suspicion that the most effective 'relevant' ads are those relevant to the content of the page on which they appear. Probably a lot more effective than "personalised" ads based on what you've just bought, for example.

    The more relevant the ad to the page being viewed, the better the advertiser, the publisher and the public are served, but of course the broker loses their alleged USP as the placement 'algorithm' becomes elementary and transparent.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Relevance and utility

      Oh I dunno. Obviously the only way I'm going to stop buying all these fridges I keep getting advertised, having bought one, is to run out of room to put them...

      Curious that no-one *ever* seems to offer an option to pay for a service, rather than monetising the poor bloody user. (And perhaps curiouser still that the vast majority of services that carry adverts are basically click bait; in it for the advertising revenue and that's it.)

  8. heyrick Silver badge

    Am I eighteen?

    I have a GMail address that I use for places I don't trust. It recently got an email from Google saying that because I have not proven that I'm over eighteen, several settings have been changed.

    I signed in, had a look at what they wanted. I could either "pay" a zero amount with a bank card (giving Google my card information in the process) or the slower mode by taking a photo of my identity card/passport and sending it to them (giving Google, essentially, my identity).

    Fuck off you fucking rapacious fucks.

    I get that they need to know if I'm over eighteen, but that's just way too much information to hand over for an email address. I barely trust the government not to lose/share/get hacked, I sure as hell am not going to send that sort of information to god only knows where, to be kept for god only knows how long, and potentially shared with god only knows who.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Am I eighteen?

      Keep pretending you're under 13 for the next decades, it means you get COPPA protection and Google can't sell your data (legally)...

    2. fidodogbreath

      Re: Am I eighteen?

      Google has locked my Gmail account because I will not give them a phone number that they can call and/or text for "two-factor authentication."

      This is required to "protect" my account, they claim. Which is obvious bullshit, because they support other 2FA methods such as their Authenicator app and TOTP. However, they will not allow me to log in to select one those other 2FA methods unless I first provide a phone number.

      I tried using a couple of burner number sites, but could not find one that would allow sufficient functionality to meet Google's requirements unless I provide them with ... wait for it ... a real-world phone number that they can call and/or text for "account verification."

  9. Mike 16

    Danes and soup

    I tend to refer to this sort of thing as a "not spitting in the soup" surcharge.

    For prison environments simply change the second letter of the verb.

    The problem is that once the legality of these is firmly established by bought legislators and packed courts, there is only one direction for the price to go.

    And as others have pointed out, paying _might_ have the advertised result, but "Once you pay the Danegelt, you never get rid of the Dane"

    ( I'm sure the Danes of today are a bit more polite in their interactions with, e.g. monasteries of the British Isles. )

  10. Denarius

    and the rest ?

    So what about the snoopware companies leaching data on most pages, aside from the big two ? I am astonished that up to half bandwidth can go on traffic that is serving only $BIGCORP. Installing a blocker or in desperate case, using Brave cuts network traffic significantly.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given that equifax managed to loose all my details to a hacker what does it matter if someone pays me for them too?

    It's not as if I gave them permission to equifax to package my data up in a nice unencrypted file... and to leave it for someone to find on one of their servers...

    TBH its not as if many people have given them permission to hold information on them, even if its meant to make applying for credit easier...

  12. shd

    With Google, there's also the issue of "aids" they provide to web site operators, which started with analytics. The latest is the Google "capture" which seems to be coming more prevalent - who knows what data that slurps without consent?

    Normally I just avoid such sites, but its difficult when official and quasi-official bodies, who IMO should no better, start to use Google - then you are stuck.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which? survey finds people would

    first of all, I 'would' treat all information from which as biased, and take it from there. Second, more importantly, the key word is 'would', and I know there are ways to mitigate the impact of 'would', on the real-world, i.e. 'will', but I would treat it with caution. Like I would love to see most politicians punished, my wages be higher and taxes much lower, I'd love to see humankind produce much less junk, and be nicer to each other. But none of those 'would' things WILL happen. What DOES happen is: gimme free and take my data, I don't care!

  14. ThatOne Silver badge

    Caveat: Biased Survey!

    > It interviewed just over 4,000 users of those platforms

    If you use "those platforms" you don't value your privacy that much anyway, do you. Which means this survey only reflects the position of those who would anyway sell their mother for a chance to delve into some celeb gossip, or those who can't understand Google is not the Internet.

    It means this survey is heavily biased, the people who care about privacy weren't asked, only those who don't care were asked.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A strategy that works for me

    Don’t use these PI sink holes.

    As Admiral Ackbar once said: “it’s a trap!”

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