An alarming proportion of the UK public is willing to sacrifice personal privacy in order to get meaningful data from wearable devices, according to a new study.

The Wearables Reportwhich looked at a relatively small sample of 130 consumers, found that people are primarily drawn to the lifestyle benefits of the data analysis provided from wearables, with only 26 percent saying they took personal data privacy into account when purchasing a device. For example, a runner may be willing to share their location data and heart rate data with a fitness app like Runkeeper in exchange for training insights.  

The report, published yesterday by Imperial College London and branding agency Zeno, aims to assess the value people place on their personal data privacy and their desire for wearable technology to tell them more about their lives and wellbeing, including the extent to which people are willing to surrender private data in exchange for more meaningful information.

It found that 74 percent of people don't take personal data privacy into account when purchasing a wearable device, even though 72 percent are aware that wearable devices collect personal data. 

One of the reasons people may not take data privacy into account is because they don't know that data collected by wearable devices can be passed on to third parties. Indeed, 41 percent of those surveyed said claimed to be unaware that their information could be passed on in this manner. 

If wearable companies want to attract customers then transparency is key, according to the report, with 51 percent of consumers saying they want to know specifics on where their data is going.

Offering people rewards is one way to encourage consumers to share data, the report found, with more than half saying they would be more inclined to share personal information in exchange for something they value.

“Wearable technology is really just another wave in a sea of media and data sharing disruption that began with the arrival of the web. Yet consumers have very real concerns about personal privacy and intimate data being misused by brands, particularly for communication. An anxious trade-off is emerging: they may trust wearables providers in exchange for the information they get back, but clumsy communication or breaching boundaries by sharing data with others will be a big no-no,” said Zeno technology director, Hannah Williams. 

“The Wearables Report is an interesting and early snapshot of how consumer attitudes and concerns are developing. Data storage and sharing with third parties, the expectation that brands will listen to what more intimate data is telling them and the likely network effect of shared data amongst online communities are three big areas that communicators should consider long and hard,” she said.

Concerns over the ownership of personal data were raised by World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee' in a keynote speech at IP Expo this month. 

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