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pay for privacy

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Pay for privacy is a pricing system in which customers are charged a fee to ensure that their data will not be shared without their consent and that it is secure from unauthorized third-party access. 

The essential concerns of online privacy include: what personal information can be shared (and with whom), whether messages can be exchanged between users without anyone else seeing them, and whether messages can be sent anonymously. In various ways, developments of recent years such as social networking, cloud computing, Web apps and the Internet of Things (IoT) have all posed new challenges to privacy. 

In some contexts, a pay for privacy service may be the only option offered. A cloud storage service, for example, might charge customers so they can maintain their own storage environment and control its security rather than outsourcing to cheaper third-party public cloud systems. For other applications, pay for privacy services are based on the freemium model in which a basic service is free but users can pay for premium service. A freemium social networking site, for example, might offer an ad-free interface or the assurance that user data will not be shared with marketing firms as paid options. 

Because service providers are businesses and as such, have to make money, they can't offer all services for free. However, alternative revenue streams -- such as sharing user data with third parties -- are often unpopular with customers. Another problem is the fact that people are loath to pay for a service if there is a free option; furthermore, many are unconcerned about data that they don't consider to be sensitive information -- despite the fact that fragments of data gathered from various streams can be combined to yield information that the user might prefer remained private. 

See also: Internet of Things privacy, cloud security

This was last updated in October 2014

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