Consumers Trust Amazon Twice as Much with Their Personal Data as They Do Facebook, Placecast Study Reveals

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According to a Harris Poll commissioned by Placecast, consumers are more comfortable with how Google, Amazon, and even their grocers use their personal information, than they are of Facebook. The survey also showed acceptance by many consumers of their location being used to send marketing messages on mobile.

There is great potential for the use of location for targeting on mobile

When it comes to companies dealing with personal consumer data, grocery stores are most trusted of all

Today Placecast is announcing results of a survey which reveals that U.S. adults are more than twice as likely to trust Amazon with their personal data as they are Facebook. Grocery stores were rated as the most trustworthy in terms of consumer data usage when compared with Facebook, Amazon, Google, and cell phone providers.

The data comes from the third wave of a poll commissioned by Placecast and conducted online by Harris Interactive in February. The poll, entitled The Alert Shopper III, focused on Americans’ acceptance of various modes of marketer communication, including newer forms of contact through mobile devices.

In this year’s wave of the survey, questions were added about relative levels of comfort with various uses of personal data in the online, offline and mobile sectors.

U.S. adults were asked to think about privacy as it relates to different promotional activities involving their personal data – for example, grocery stores using purchase information to deliver specific coupons, Google search results with accompanying ads, Facebook profile information being used to target ads, and Amazon’s use of past purchase data to promote additional items. An important goal of the survey was to discover how aware and accepting U.S. adults are of data tied to their mobile devices being used in mobile marketing efforts, as well as their location information.

The survey showed that 66 percent of U.S. adults who are aware of use of data by Amazon find the company’s use of personal data somewhat to very acceptable, versus 33 percent saying the same for Facebook.

More than three-quarters (81 percent) of U.S. adults who are aware of the use of this data said they were comfortable with a grocery store using their purchase information to deliver coupons tailored to them. Comparatively, just one third of U.S. adults who are aware of the use of data by Facebook trust the company’s use of profile information to target ads. One outlier in terms of acceptance of Facebook’s use of data occurs among women ages 18 – 34: 52 percent of women who are aware of the use of data by Facebook are comfortable with Facebook’s use of data to target ads. Some of the heaviest users of Facebook fall within this group according to sources like comScore and Nielsen; there may be a correlation between reliance on social networking and acceptance of data usage.

“Facebook’s business is based on the use of consumer data to target ads. They clearly have a challenge convincing their huge user base that there is value in the exchange of personal data for a free service,” says Placecast CEO Alistair Goodman. “In contrast, Amazon is a company just a few years older than Facebook, but they have created a scenario where consumers understand and accept the benefit their data provides for the service they are receiving – much like consumer’s acceptance of grocery coupons tied to purchase data.”

The results of the poll show that nearly two in five (38 percent) U.S. adults who are aware of use of data by local merchants are comfortable with merchants sending them local offers on their phones – provided they gave permission. U.S. adults age 18-34 are most receptive to their location information being used by merchants: half (51 percent) stated they are comfortable with their location being used to send them offers from nearby stores, compared to one quarter (27 percent) aged 55 and over.

When asked, “How comfortable are you, if at all, about your privacy and the use of your cell phone service provider using location information from your phone, with your permission, to send you local offers?” results for U.S. adults who are aware of this use and at least somewhat comfortable also varied by age:

  •     18-34 years old: 47 percent
  •     35-44 years old: 38 percent
  •     45-54 years old: 34 percent
  •     55 and over: 23 percent

“There is great potential for the use of location for targeting on mobile,” says Kathryn Koegel, Chief of Insights for Primary Impact consulting, which worked with Placecast and Harris to develop the poll. “Location is incredibly predictive of purchase intent – you are where you intend to buy – and marketers should look closely at acceptable, permission-based ways to use this data. As more and more consumers use apps that convey a specific benefit for turning on location tracking on their device – finding movies, restaurants, retail and entertainment options near them – they will be increasingly open to this kind of info being used by marketers to push relevant offers.”

Goodman describes the responsibility marketers and technology providers share: “As mobile phones become used as shopping tools in addition to communication devices, we in the mobile industry owe it to consumers to ensure that they are given control over their mobile experience - which means opt-in programs, transparency about how data will be used, and a simple opt-out process.”

This research marks the third survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Placecast – similar studies were conducted in summer of 2009 and winter of 2010. The results collectively make up a series called ‘The Alert Shopper’, a tracking study conducted to understand shifting consumer usage and attitudes about marketing on mobile phones. 2262 adults, from a nationally representative sample, were surveyed in February 2012.

To learn more about Placecast research, visit


Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Placecast. Data was collected between February 16 and 24, 2012 among 2,262 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,952 own a standard cell phone or smartphone; between February 23 and 27, 2012 among 2,307 adults age 18 and older, of whom 2,085 were identified as owning a standard cell phone or smartphone; between May 17 and 19, 2010, of whom 1,710 own a standard cell phone or smartphone; and between July 20 – 22, 2009, of whom 1,729 were identified as cell phone owners. Results were weighted as needed to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population ages 18+ using targets for region, age within gender, education, household income and race/ethnicity. Respondents for this survey were selected from among the Harris Poll Online (HPOL) database, which includes several million people who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Rachael Himsel Nunez at Rachael(at)

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

About Placecast

Placecast is the world’s provider of location-based marketing and loyalty programs for mobile operators, payments companies and brands. The company’s ShopAlerts geofence marketing platform is specifically designed to use digital marketing on mobile devices to drive consumers into physical stores.
ShopAlerts has transformed the location-based industry, taking home the top prize for innovation awarded by the National Retail Federation. Brands such as The North Face, Starbucks, L’Oreal, Subway, Pizza Hut, Kmart, HP, Chico’s White House Black Market, JetBlue and SC Johnson have all run ShopAlerts offers through Placecast and its partners. The Placecast platform is licensed by brands, mobile operators like Telefonica O2 in Europe, mall operator DDR and credit card issuers, with over 10 million opted in consumers receiving location-based offers every week.

Placecast is backed by ONSET Ventures Quatrex Capital, and Voyager Capital.

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Rachael Himsel
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