• Ads for shampoo in personal newsfeeds is different than Prozac
  • At some point people may be willing to pay for privacy

Consumers have willingly traded some of their personal details for access to social sites like Google or Facebook, and suffer an occasional ad as a result. But once that sharing gets too personal, as with health-care information, it could prompt people to retreat behind a wall of privacy, according to a panel of technology experts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In fact, consumers might even be willing to pay for the privilege, Michael Gregoire, chief executive officer of software company CA Inc. said during a discussion about the Internet of Things.

“Just pay attention in the next one or two weeks how many more advertisements you’re getting on your Facebook page or LinkedIn,” Gregoire said. “The thing that I think as being the catalyst for making us stop and pause and think about this is going to be health care.”

Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have become advertising giants by offering their services for free and then selling ads that target consumers based on the information they voluntarily share. Seeing an ad for Kiehl’s hand lotion show up on your news feed is different than seeing an ad for Prozac, however.

And, sometimes that data gets into the wrong hands, such as when hackers stole nude photos from the Apple accounts of some celebrities in 2014.

As consumers pay more attention to the number and kinds of ads they’re seeing, they’ll demand more privacy protections, and may ask companies to stop using their data, said Michael McNamara, chief executive officer of Flextronics International Ltd.

“There’s going to have to be more communication between what data’s being captured and what isn’t,” he said. “Otherwise, the consumer will vote real quick.”

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