Most Web Users Dislike Behavioral Targeting, Personalized Search

by , Mar 9, 2012, 10:04 AM
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The majority of Web users say they don't want to receive ads targeted based on behavior or search results personalized based on their prior activity, according to a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

For the study, released today, Pew asked around 800 Web users how they would feel about a search engine remembering their prior queries and using that data to personalize future results.  Seventy-three percent of respondents said they "would not be okay with it" because they feel it's an invasion of privacy.

But privacy isn't respondents' only concern.

Pew also asked a different group of 800 Web users whether they thought that personalization of results was "a bad thing because it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see" or "a good thing because it gives you results that are more relevant to you." Around two out of three respondents (65%) answered that it would be a bad thing, while just 29% said personalization would be a good thing.

Pew also reports that most Web users don't like targeted ads. When researchers asked around 1,700 Web users how they felt about receiving targeted ads, 68% of respondents said they were "not okay with it" because they don't want to be tracked and profiled. Only 28% said they were "okay with it" because they received ads and information relevant to their interests.

Those results are consistent with a study released in September of 2009 by professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. That report found that two out of three Web users don't want customized ads.
Despite the ad industry's efforts to tell people how to opt out of online ad targeting, only 38% of Web users said they are "generally aware" of ways to limit the information that's collected about them. Of that group, 75% say they use privacy settings at publishers' sites, and 65% say they change their browser settings.

The report comes just one week after Google changed its privacy policy to allow it to combine data about signed-in users across a variety of products and services, including Gmail, Android and YouTube. Google plans to use this data for targeted advertising and personalized services.

The report was based on a survey earlier this year of 2,253 U.S. adults total. Of that group, around 1,700 were Internet users and more than 90% used search engines.

3 comments on "Most Web Users Dislike Behavioral Targeting, Personalized Search".

  1. Julien Couvreur from My opinions
    commented on: March 9, 2012 at 12:37 p.m.
    In other news, most consumers say they dislike waiting in line. The point is that polls don't offer a view of demand, in the sense of relative value. Of course, people will state that they dislike costs. The question is whether the benefits is worth the costs to them. Going back to the lines at the register, you could have a no-wait supermarket, but products would cost more. People actually prefer waiting in line, compared to some other forms of costs, as far as we can tell from real-world evidence.
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: March 9, 2012 at 6:49 p.m.
    Then again, if you think you know what you don't know, you really don't know. The wanting of such narrowcasting results prove you know bubkas beyond what you see control you by controlling what you see.
  3. Bob Wesley from Wesley Partners
    commented on: March 13, 2012 at 12:08 a.m.
    I imagine that most consumers do not like to receive any type of ads. What consumers really want is information about products and services at the right time and the right place. These results are not very surprising.

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