Privacy A Major Concern Among Web Surfers

woman with binocularsFollowing on the heels of Facebook's decision to rescind a highly controversial move to store all content posted on the social network, new data has emerged to support consumers' increasing alarm over online privacy.

The vast majority--80.1%--of Web surfers are indeed concerned about the privacy of their personal information such as age, gender, income and Web-surfing habits, according to a survey of some 4,000 Web users administered and analyzed by Burst Media.

More worrisome, perhaps, is the finding that privacy concerns are prevalent among all age segments, including younger demographics that are coming of age online.

Still, privacy concerns do appear to increase with age, from 67.3% among respondents ages 18-24 to 85.7% of respondents 55 years and older.

"Online privacy is a prevailing concern for web surfers," said Chuck Moran, vice president of marketing for Burst Media.

The survey was administered by Burst with the purpose of better understanding how privacy is impacting Web users' experiences online, as well as its impact on advertisers.

"Advertisers must take concrete actions to mitigate consumers' privacy concerns and at the same time continue to deliver their message as effectively as possible," Moran added.

"In addition, and as recently seen in the news flare up regarding Facebook's privacy controversy, publishers need to be completely transparent about their privacy policies."

Facebook recently changed its terms of use agreement, which gave the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company the ability to store user-posted photos and other content, even after it was deleted by users themselves. Earlier this week, however, the company reverted to a previous version of its legal user guidelines after thousands of members protested that Facebook was claiming ownership over the content.

In addition, the Burst survey found that most Web users believe Web sites are tracking their behavior online. Three out of five--62.5%--respondents indicated it is likely that a Web site they visit collects information on how they navigate and interact with it.

Judging by the Facebook flap and Burst's finding, personal privacy is not something people are willing to give up--even for more relevant advertising.

Based strictly on the description "advertisements more relevant to interest," only one in five respondents--23.2%--said they would not mind if non-personally identifiable information was collected if ads were better targeted.

Recommend (2) Print RSS
3 comments about "Privacy A Major Concern Among Web Surfers ".
  1. Ted Mcenroe from New England Cable News , February 20, 2009 at 7:21 a.m.

    It would be interesting to know how this concern affects people's habits. How many of the 80% who are concerned are actively taking precautions to protect that privacy, or even reading terms of service, etc. That's the other half of the privacy equation that needs to be considered.

  2. David Rostan , February 20, 2009 at 12:13 p.m.

    Good post! And, a good question, Ted. I think that the more important question, though, is what would customers do if better privacy protection was offered by ad networks and web publishers?
    That way, we could understand the incentive that publishers and ad networks may have to make that privacy protection happen.
    If customers would not behave differently, regulation is the only way to bring about privacy. But, if customers would have greater trust in publishers and/or advertisers or use their services more, the market would provide privacy.

  3. Tim Daly , February 20, 2009 at 1:33 p.m.

    We need to be careful as an industry at giving credence to unscientific research studies by organizations that do not have expertise in conducting marketing research studies. No personal slap here to Burst Media, as they showed tenacious proactivity here that should be commended, but how the study was conducted and how questions were formed can lead to directed answer that guarantee a result. After reading this article and hearing the numbers, I would want to know more about the survey administration before giving credence to this study.

    Ultimately, consumers are okay with their data being used in certain ways that benefit. Its a no brainer they are going to be concerned about their privacy and the 80% figure suggest more general concern than specific concern. The questions that need to be resolved is what are consumers okay with when the residual benefits of the data sharing are worthwhile. If you couch the survey with the benefits of the data sharing, you will get a different answer.