A new survey of ‘Gen Z’ college students reveals a growing level of sophistication when it comes to data privacy. The good news for advertisers trying to reach this audience is that this generation may still be convinced to surrender even the most sensitive data if the price is right. Longer term, a greater sensitivity to data privacy concerns may continue to pose challenges.

New research released today from e-commerce platform provider FreedomPay, conducted in partnership with US-based Cornell University, explored the attitude of 200 Cornell Gen Z students (defined as those born in 1995 or later) about their attitudes toward data privacy and willingness to share personal information.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, survey respondents’ willingness to share personal information to third parties like retailers and banks varied significantly by the perceived privacy level of a particular piece of information. Average willingness to share data (on a scale from 1, equalling ‘extremely unlikely to share,’ to 6, equalling ‘extremely likely to share,’ ranged from a score of 5.24 for gender data to below 2 for GPS location, social security number, and medical record data.

Source: FreedomPay (June 2022)

However, even for the most sensitive data, survey results may provide hope to marketers looking for signs that some respondents can be convinced to part with some sensitive data under the right circumstances. The study found that a $15 reward incentive seemed to have some limited impact on respondents’ willingness to disclose high-level privacy details; specifically 24% indicated they would be more likely to share high-privacy information for a $15 reward.

Key points for Gen Z

One other key finding for marketers looking to target Gen Z: they want cash. Fully 69% of respondents indicated a preference for cash discounts compared to, say, loyalty points (31%). And if they are loyalty points, they’d better be really good – survey respondents indicated they would only be likely to choose loyalty points if that value is 20x greater than a cash discount or award.

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As far as loyalty points are concerned, respondents were most interested in food and beverage options; by contrast, loyalty points related to debit cards, gas stations, grocery stores, and hotels were the least compelling. Overall, the survey results point to a significant challenge that is likely to only grow as Gen Zers get older: having witnessed countless privacy breaches over their relatively short lifetimes, Gen Zers are overall less willing to share personal details than previous generations. That’s a sign that there may be a new privacy paradigm emerging that will pose new challenges for online advertisers and marketers.