But a new poll of 840 Web users by Gallup/USA Today indicates that Web users aren't willing to trade online privacy for free content.
Almost seven in 10 survey respondents -- 67% -- said that they don't think advertisers should be allowed to collect data about the Web sites they visited in order to serve them with targeted ads. What's more, 61% also said that not even free content justifies the potential privacy issues posed by online ad targeting.
Web users "are overwhelmingly negative about whether it is OK for advertisers to use their online browsing history to target ads to them, suggesting they would largely welcome regulation to limit the use of such tactics," Gallup states in a post about the poll.
The results seem consistent with research last year by professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and the University of California, Berkeley, showing that two-thirds of consumers don't want targeted ads.
Additionally, 37% of respondents in the Gallup poll said they would opt out of all online ad targeting if they could. This figure is in itself odd, given that people already can eschew all online ad tracking done by the major ad networks and others who follow industry guidelines, yet only a tiny percentage of Web users appear to do so through opt-out links.
While it's possible that some Web believe they're avoiding tracking by deleting their cookies -- as opposed to opting out through a link provided by a self-regulatory group or publisher -- it also seems plausible that some Web users don't want to receive targeted ads, but also don't realize that they have any choice. If so, one explanation could be that Web companies continue to inform people about online ad tracking and targeting in privacy policies that -- despite complaints by regulators -- remain too lengthy and complex to be informative.