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Artist proves people will give away their personal data for a cookie

3 October 2014, 11:00 am EDT By Robin Burks Tech Times
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An artist recently convinced 380 people to give up their personal data, including their names, addresses, driver's license numbers and even their social security numbers, in exchange for a cookie.  ( Kevin Skoback )

Would you give up your personal information for a cookie?

That's a question recently asked by artist Risa Puno, who conducted an experiment offering people a cookie in exchange for their personal data. This data included names, addresses, driver's license numbers, mother's maiden names, social security numbers and even fingerprints.

What's most shocking about this experiment is that 380 people willingly gave up their data for one of Puno's cookies, which she decorated with logos of social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

"It is crazy what people were willing to give me," says Puno.

The experiment was a simple one. Puno baked 700 cookies with flavors such as "Chocolate Chili Fleur de Sel" and "Pink Pistachio Peppercorn." Then she attended an arts festival in Brooklyn, NY, and offered cookies to attendees for those willing to give up personal details about themselves.

In all, 380 people turned over their data willingly, just for a cookie, with 117 giving Puno their fingerprints and 162 giving up their social security numbers. More than half of the participants posed for photos for Puno.

Puno had each participant sign a lengthy document, written in small text, similar to the terms and conditions sites on Facebook and Twitter. Most people signed away their data without a second thought. Some asked what Puno would do with the information, but she did not reply.

Some participants even gave Puno more data than she asked for.

"That to me was baffling," she said. "If I were thinking about giving away my information, I wasn't giving away more than I had to."

Some didn't even eat the cookie, but traded their personal information for photos with it. The Instagram-decorated cookies were particularly popular with photographers, so much so, that Puno traded photos of them for fingerprints, the last four digits of social security numbers and driver's license numbers.

So now that Puno has the personal data of 380 people, what's she going to do with it? Although she could easily use it any way she saw fit, as those who handed it over signed a legally binding agreement, she reports that she's considering destroying it.

Although people say they value their privacy, there's clearly a price they can put on it, and if that price is just a cookie, at least in this art performance experiment, then that price is relatively low.

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