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Thursday, May 30, 2024

54% of Americans Would Trade Digital Privacy for a Debt-Free Life

Digital Privacy For Debt Relief Survey
Jon McDonald

Written by: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald brings more than 15 years of journalism expertise to Informing financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry, Jon is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use; he strives to bring that experience to readers worldwide. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Andrew Allen

Andrew Allen
Andrew Allen

For nearly 20 years, Andrew has worked for financial institutions ranging from regional investment organizations to some of the largest banks in the world. At Wells Fargo, Andrew was a Consultant within the Insight and Innovation division. A graduate of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, Andrew’s goal has been promoting personal financial wellness and solid money decisions.

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Advertiser Disclosure

In an era where Americans face unprecedented credit card debt of $1.13 trillion, the cycle of debt repayment — often confined to interest alone — has become a relentless burden for many. This has cast a shadow over their financial freedom.

Moreover, there are less scrupulous entities that operate online that exploit consumers’ vulnerabilities. These companies, such as same-day loan providers and predatory lenders, lure consumers with alluring yet potentially misleading promotions, often characterized by excessively high interest rates and aggressive lending practices. But what if the escape from this debt was as digital as its origin?

We conducted a survey of 3,000 indebted consumers, posing a hypothetical question:

Would you trade your lifetime’s internet browsing history data for the elimination of your current credit card debt?

The survey revealed the lengths to which people would go to regain their financial autonomy, with over half (54%) willing to surrender their lifetime browsing data in exchange for instant debt relief.

Trading Digital Privacy is Risky

At first glance, this may seem like an easy deal to accept — after all, very few people monetize their internet data, and the average credit card debt in the U.S. stands at $6,295.

But trading one’s digital footprint for financial freedom comes with significant risks and long-term consequences. A person’s internet browsing history is a treasure trove of personal information, revealing their interests, habits, and even their most intimate thoughts.

Trading digital privacy risks graphic

By handing over this data, consumers expose themselves to potential privacy breaches, targeted advertising, and even identity theft. Moreover, as technology advances and data becomes increasingly valuable, the long-term cost of surrendering your digital footprint may far outweigh the short-term relief of debt elimination.

The idea of trading personal data for financial gain sets a dangerous precedent. In a world where data is already being misused and manipulated, do consumers really want to open the floodgates by exchanging their personal information for short-term financial gain?

Colorado and Louisiana Respondents Were Most Willing to Make the Trade

When broken down by state, the survey showed that Coloradans and Louisianans would be the keenest on clearing their debts in exchange for data. Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents in each of those states said they would make this trade.

Respondents who said they were least willing to trade their digital freedom were from New Hampshire — the state whose official motto is ‘Live Free or Die’. Only 1 in 5 respondents there said they would give up their lifetime digital footprint for a credit debt-free year.

An infographic showing the survey results in each state:

Created by CardRates • View larger version

To further understand people’s decisions when it comes to credit card debt, posed another hypothetical question: Would consumers be willing to have no contact with friends or family for a year if it meant their credit card debt would be canceled? Surprisingly, 1 in 3 respondents said they would accept this offer.

Participants unable to pay off the interest on their credit card debt were asked which lifestyle change they would be most willing to make to address the issue. An overwhelming 75% said they would cut out all non-essential spending, such as eating out and entertainment, while 17% said they would take on a second job or side hustle. Only 4% said they would consider downsizing their living situation (e.g., moving to a smaller home or paying less rent) or giving up a car and opting for public transportation.

Respondents Also Appear Willing to Sacrifice Tech to Pay Down Debt

Additionally, 83% of respondents said they would be willing to use older technology (phone, computer, car) longer than usual to help pay down their debt.

When asked about their spending priorities post-debt clearing, 50% of respondents said they would strike a balance between saving and reasonable spending, while 31% said they would focus on building their savings. But a concerning 15% admitted they would most likely revert to their previous spending habits. A small minority (3%) of respondents said they would spend money on a few big-ticket items they had been postponing, such as purchasing a car.

We found that 1 in 5 respondents admit that their friends’ spending habits influence their own, especially in relation to debt. 

“Our survey reveals the profound impact that credit card debt has on people’s lives, leading them to consider extreme measures to regain financial freedom, said Ashley Fricker, Senior Editor at CardRates. “While it’s understandable that people would go to great lengths to eliminate their debt, it’s concerning that many would be willing to sacrifice their digital privacy or personal relationships to do so. This highlights the need for better financial education and support to help people manage their debt in a sustainable way.”

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