PubMatic: Consumers Confused About Online Tracking

PubMatic will release a study Monday that finds Internet users are more accepting of anonymous data collection when they understand how advertisers use it. The paper, Audience Selling for Publishers, reveals that most consumers don't understand that interest-based advertising is anonymous.

When survey participants -- about 500 people -- were asked if they knew some of their online behavior might be tracked for advertising purposes, 71% acknowledged that they knew. But when asked if they knew the online data collected about them for the purpose of advertising was anonymous, only 40% understood knew.

Eric Klotz, PubMatic vice president of marketing, hopes the study serves as a wake-up call to the industry. "Everyone knows the user's privacy is paramount and that we provide a service to them," he says. "Understanding the how and the why changes everything."

Consumers just want to feel comfortable about using the Internet without the concern of their privacy being violated -- similar to the old adage that when they pick up a land-line phone it just works, and without the fear of someone listening in.



Semantics matter when it comes to the following keywords. If someone asked consumers if they would rather be "tracked" or "have anonymous data collected about their browsing behavior" they would choose the latter. Clarity makes the difference between "tracked" and "anonymous" data collection.

In the study conducted by Knowledge Networks, users were asked about their opinions on audience-based online advertising in three key areas. First, not understanding how anonymous data is collected; second, after understanding how it is collected; and third, after understanding how anonymous data is collected and the benefits of collection.

The study, conducted in early 2011, reveals Internet users are far more accepting of interest-based advertising when they understand that there is no understanding of how anonymous data is used, 64% disapproved. After understanding that only anonymous data is used for interest-based advertising, 40% who disapproved changed to approved.

When the survey participants understood the benefits included more relevant advertising that helped subsidize free content, 53% changed their minds and approved.

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