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Compensating consumers: Putting a value on personal data online


In 2020 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) produced a report on Online Platforms and Digital Advertising recommended that platforms such as Google and Facebook should give consumers a clear choice not to share their data for personalised advertising, handing them more control over how their data is used and collected.

The consumer champion Which?, in its role as an advocate for consumer rights online, wanted to understand the value online consumers place on their personal data when it comes to data sharing for personalised advertising.

Which? commissioned Accent and PJM Economics to undertake primary research with Google and Facebook users. The core aim of the study was to explore the value that consumers attribute to protecting their personal data when it comes to data sharing and personalised advertising.


We surveyed over 4,000 Google and Facebook users in the UK during late May 2021. The survey used a stated preference valuation methodology that asked participants to make hypothetical choices between whether they would prefer to be shown targeted or generic adverts, and in the latter case their personal data would not be collected for the purpose of advertising. Half of the sample was given a choice in which they had to pay a fee not to receive targeted adverts, while the other half were offered a reward to receive them.


Consumers were found to be willing to pay £1.09 per month to only receive generic advertising and for their data not to be collected. When scaled up to the total UK users of Google and Facebook for a full year  gives a total estimated value of £1.14 billion.

In the absence of any financial incentive, 27% of Google and Facebook users said they would prefer to receive targeted adverts. However, when a financial incentive was added, that figure went up to 81%.

The government is currently consulting on what powers to give to the new Digital Markets Unit (DMU), which operates out of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). On the back of this research Which? is recommending that these powers include the ability to compel the biggest online platforms to give consumers a simple and understandable choice to control how their data is collected and used.

Click here to see Which?’s Press release

Click here for the report:

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said Which? had repeatedly raised the issue of consumers not feeling in control of how their data is collected and used by online platforms.

“The introduction of greater choice and control for individual users would not only empower consumers, but would also stimulate competition in digital markets to ensure challenger businesses can compete viably with tech giants,” added Concha.