How much would you pay for your privacy?

In an interesting test of how much people are willing to pay for some internet privacy, AT&T has made a special plan available to Kansas City-area consumers. For just $30 more a month, customers can enjoy a fast fiber-optic connection, and in exchange the telecoms company won't track your movements online.

Gretchen Schultz, a spokeswoman for AT&T, revealed the initial results to Greg Ferenstein of The Atlantic, saying:

"Since we began offering the service more than a year ago, the vast majority have elected to opt-in to the ad-supported model."

In other words, consumers are willing to pay less even if it means their traffic will be tracked and used for targeted ads. That is, unless these people are using the free service in combination with a proxy service to make their activity harder to trace. But that alternative is doubtful.  

What's more, the added price doesn't protect AT&T customers from other websites and services that may wish to track them while they're out on the open web. So, additional methods to make your business anonymous would be required, regardless. But it doesn't seem like the citizens of Kansas City much care about the state of their privacy.

Ferenstein writes that this attitude toward privacy has never been a top priority whenever price or convenience comes into play — not just now, but also throughout history. Even a “free” cookie is enough to persuade people give away their personal information. Performance artist Risa Puno at the Brooklyn Art festival allowed people to purchase a cinnamon cookie in exchange for their social security number or fingerprint.

Brad Templeton, in his Big Think interview, argues how our state has gone beyond what George Orwell could have imagined in his dystopian novel, 1984. The lack of privacy historians talk about in the past is nothing compared to the amount of data that's being processed and stored today. The amount of control business and government officials have is far greater than having a nosy neighbor listening in on a party line for gossip that Ferenstein references.

Read more at The Atlantic.

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