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When it comes to privacy, US consumers are still protecting some of their personal information as much as they do their social security number, according to a study by LoyaltyOne. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

Of the 1,000 consumers responding to an online survey, 50% said they'd be willing to give a trusted company their religious affiliation, 49% their political affiliation, 49% their sexual orientation, 36% health information, 26% mental health information, 24% browsing history and 15% for both smart phone location and number of sexual partners. Last on the list is their social security number at 11%.

Toronto-based LoyaltyOne, a global provider of coalition loyalty, customer analytics and loyalty services, completed online surveys in July 2012 with 1,000 American respondents. The research is designed to test consumer attitudes about personal data collection and use by marketers.

Several of the 2012 questions followed up on a 2011 survey and were structured to measure changes in US consumer sentiments over the year. For brands intent on deepening their customer relationships, the results signal a concerning trend: consumer trust may be eroding.

Among the year-on-year survey findings:

  • 78% of US respondents said they do not feel they receive any benefit at all from sharing information, up from 74% in 2011;
  • Less than half feel that companies use their personal data to better serve the consumer, an 11% slip from 2011
  • 62% said they would share more personal data if it meant receiving relevant product and service offers, down from 66% in 2011.
  • 27% of survey takers would give up their location via cell phone for a chance to win an iPad or weekend getaway, while cash would entice more than half;
  • 71% said it's not acceptable to send baby food offers to someone who had merely purchased a pregnancy test.

"These responses point to an unmistakable trend. Marketers' efforts to create relevant customer experiences through data need to be re-addressed or they run the risk of their efforts not resonating with customers," said Bryan Pearson, president of LoyaltyOne and author of the book, The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information Into Customer Intimacy. "Consumers are disappointed. For years they've provided their valuable information and they're not realising something of suitable worth in return. If businesses don't act quickly to demonstrate they have the consumer's best interest at heart, they risk an erosion of the business-to-consumer relationship."