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UK consumers would collectively pay over £1bn a year for control of their data

UK consumers are willing to pay a small fee per month to have control of the data they share with Google and Facebook

British internet users would be prepared to pay over £1bn a year to Google and Facebook in return for control of their own data.

A Which? survey of more than 4,000 Facebook and Google users found that users would be prepared to pay just over £1 a month each to stop the internet giants from using their data to target adverts at them.

UK users combined are willing to pay £1.1bn a year. But the consumer group also revealed that in return for a small financial reward, 81% of UK consumers would be happy for the internet giants to use their data to target adverts at them. On average, consumers said they would have to be paid just over £4 per to agree to receive targeted ads, which would cost Google and Facebook over £4bn across all UK internet users. 

The research, carried out with Accent and PJM Economics, found that customers are concerned about sharing personal data. “Consumers should have the right to choose not to receive targeted adverts, with platforms having an obligation to provide their core service without collecting any data beyond that which is necessary for the performance of the contract with the user,” said Which?

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said the company had repeatedly raised the issue of consumers not feeling in control of how their data is collected and used by online platforms. 

“The introduction of greater choice and control for individual users would not only empower consumers, but would also stimulate competition in digital markets to ensure challenger businesses can compete viably with tech giants,” added Concha.

The government is currently consulting on what powers to give to the new Digital Markets Unit (DMU), part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

“The introduction of greater choice and control for individual users would not only empower consumers, but would also stimulate competition in digital markets to ensure challenger businesses can compete viably with tech giants”
Rocio Concha, Which?

“The government’s new Digital Markets Unit must be empowered to introduce remedies that promote competition and reduce consumer harm,” said Concha.

Which? wants the unit to have the power to compel the biggest online platforms to give consumers a simple and understandable choice to control how their data is collected and used.  

Which? said that while Google and Facebook do offer tools to enable consumers to control the use of their data, not many customers are aware of them, or they are complicated to use.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company has always been transparent about the fact it never uses sensitive personal data for advert targeting: “We offer a range of ways for people to control their ads experience through industry-leading tools such as Off-Facebook Activity that gives people more control over the information shared by other apps and websites. We aim to strike a balance between allowing businesses and organisations to show ads that are genuinely of interest and value to people, while also making sure our global community feels comfortable.”

Google said: “People want a web that can keep their information safe and private while also remaining thriving, pluralistic, and open. We are building tools and technologies to make this possible. Relevant adverts are much more likely to show consumers products and offers they actually want, and to help independent publishers and creators of all sizes to fund themselves. That’s why we are advancing the field of privacy-preserving technology in support of a future in which people can access ad-supported content with confidence that their privacy and choices are respected.”

A separate Which? survey of 2,000 people found that 12% trusted social networks while more than half (55%) did not. 

Which? added: “[We believe] it is imperative that the government follows through with its intention to legislate for a new pro-competition regime for digital markets and that the DMU is empowered to introduce remedies that promote competition and reduce consumer harm, including giving consumers greater control over their personal data.”

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