Conventional wisdom has it that consumers say they're concerned about online privacy, but rarely do much about it.
But Microsoft challenged that idea today by releasing new survey results that indicate consumers are trying to control the way data about them is used by marketers. Among other findings, the report includes the following jaw-dropping statistic: Almost half of U.S. adults, 44%, say they have opted out of targeted advertising.
At first glance, that figure appears quite high, especially compared to other reports. Consider, the self-regulatory group Network Advertising Initiative said last year that around 10% of the 8 million people who visited its site opted out of online behavioral advertising, or ad-targeting based on users' Web-surfing history.
But the 44% figure might not be as much of an outlier as it seems if Microsoft's respondents interpreted the term "targeted advertising" broadly. For instance, respondents might have been referring to tweaking their Amazon settings regarding recommendations.
It's also possible that the people surveyed by Microsoft opted out of online behavioral advertising on a company-by-company basis on publishers' sites, as opposed to a site like the one operated by the NAI.
The proportion of respondents who say they try to block targeted ads isn't the only surprising tidbit. Microsoft also reports that 65% of respondents said they delete cookies in order to control privacy, while 39% say they have changed their browser settings to request that sites don't track them.
Despite taking steps to control their data, 45% of respondents said they feel they have little or no control over the information that's gathered about them online.
Microsoft chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch says in a blog post that the findings reaffirm that "customers want and expect strong privacy protections to be built into our products, devices and services, and for companies to be responsible stewards of consumers’ data."
The results were based on an Ipsos survey of around 1,000 U.S. adults.