What's your personal data worth?

We all know that issues of privacy concerns are regularly in the news, and with good reason.

When it comes to our own personal data – our email addresses, computers’ browsing history, current location, gender, marital status and more – these are pieces of information we don’t want falling into the wrong hands, whether these belong to marketing companies or people with more malicious intent.

Credit comparison site TotallyMoney.com has carried out a survey to find out what price UK consumers place on their data (compared to how much marketing companies actually pay for it), and how much they know about privacy issues, especially when it comes to social media.

  • 40 per cent of Facebook users have no idea their data is being sold to third parties
  • Men value their browsing data at £1057 compare to its actual value of £0.0014
  • 18-24-year-olds value their data the most

If you want to find out how much your data is worth, you can use their handy online tool:

UK consumers, on average, value their email address at £983. That is quite high, but then most of us would expect only people we actually know to contact us on it. There’s nothing worse than being bombarded with companies trying to sell you products you have no interest in or pop up ads from random brands. But it might shock you to know that, in actuality, a marketing company can purchase your email address for just 5 pence. Then it can contact you as often as it likes, regardless of whether you’re really interested in double-glazing or car insurance or not.

When it comes to our private Internet browsing history, on average, we value this at £934. We expect to be able to go onto sites that reflect our love of, say, cats, stilettos, or second world war re-enactments, without having those URLs passed on to companies who can then try and sell us cat litter, corn plasters, or stick-on military moustaches. Interestingly, however, men value their browsing history 29 per cent higher than women, £1,057 compared to £817! We take it most blokes would be horrified, therefore, to learn that someone’s browsing history can be bought for just a fraction of a penny: £0.0014, to be precise.

In total, the average UK consumer values all their personal data at £2,031, though the youngest age group surveyed, 18-24-year-olds, valued theirs the most out of any, at £2,152. Hardly surprising, considering they spend so much time online, and especially on social media. Again, men think their data is worth more than women’s; 21 per cent more, to be precise, at £2,230 compared to £1,840. Is this because they have more secrets?! Whether they do or not, marketing companies can get hold of it dirt cheap, paying only 45p on average for 13 pieces of personal data.

But what might be most unsettling of all is how little we actually realise that our personal data is already being bought and sold, and by whom. Around 30 million Brits are signed up to Facebook – that’s nearly half the total population. However, nearly 40 per cent of UK consumers have absolutely no idea that Facebook is selling their personal data to third parties; and TotallyMoney.com found that 52 per cent of people would actually consider leaving Facebook due to personal data concerns (that rises to 60 per cent when it comes to 18-24-year-olds).

‘It’s clear that we have a bit of a knowledge gap when it comes to our own personal data,’ confirms Joe Gardiner from TotallyMoney.com. ‘It pays to be aware of how much we are actually putting out there, whether it’s via social media or otherwise, and to know that third parties have access to it, just by simply buying it.

"And once you know that social media networks actively sell your personal data on, you might think twice about what you put up there!"