Professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley just conducted one of the largest independent studies on privacy and advertising tracking–and you may want take note of the findings.
Of 1,000 adult internet users:
…66 percent that said tailored ads were “not OK,” an additional 7 percent said such ads were not OK when they were tracked on the site. An additional 18 percent said it was not OK when they were tracked via other Web sites, and an additional 20 percent said it was not OK when they were tracked offline.
OK, so internet users don’t like the idea of targeted ads, but are we getting the complete picture here? Did the survey ask: would you rather have a site serve targeted ads or pay a fee to access the content? I doubt it! You see, it’s easy to ask questions that peel away at the sentiment of the general public, but are not necessarily representative of what they are actually willing to accept.
Think about it. If consumers knew what was being tracked each time they handed over their grocery store “super important VIP discount card” they’d be too scared to ever step foot in the store again! If questioned, they’d probably object to the tracking, but tell them that that “2 for 1″ deal on the 12-pack of Coke vanishes, and they might have a different perspective.
As marketers we should be concerned about this study. Privacy advocates are using it to scare the crap out of the FTC and Washington–neither of which will ask the questions I just did. And, with 69% of respondents saying they’re in favor of laws that force a web site to reveal ALL data they’re tracking and a whopping 92% favoring an option to delete all of that data, we could end up with some pretty lame ads.
Do we need regulation on what’s tracked and how the data is used? Perhaps–there are some shady businesses out there. But, we should do so only after web users are explicitly told, “look, you delete this ad tracking info and you’ll be bashing animated monkeys each time you come to our site!”