Web Users Uneasy With Behavioral Targeting


New research from privacy company Truste indicates that a sizable proportion of U.S. Web users are uncomfortable with online tracking by advertisers.

For the report, released on Monday, researchers from Harris Interactive asked 1,004 Web users whether they would voluntarily consent to share their online browsing behavior with advertisers in order to receive targeted ads. Only 15% said they would "definitely" or "probably" consent.

When asked in a separate question whether they were comfortable with online behavioral advertising, just 11% said they were. That figure doubled to 22% when respondents were told that online behavioral advertising was not tied to their personally identifiable information -- which industry groups generally define as name or contact information.

Researchers also asked respondents whether they would sign up for a "do-not-track list," with the understanding that they would receive fewer relevant ads. Forty-four percent answered in the affirmative, up slightly from 42% in 2009.



Consumer Reports recently said that its survey found an even higher proportion of users -- 81% -- favored a do-not-track mechanism that would allow them to permanently avoid online tracking. One reason for the difference could be that Consumer Reports research asked consumers whether they agreed there should be "one single, central place" where they could opt out of online tracking, while Truste referred signing up for a do-not-track "list."

The FTC called for Web companies to develop a universal mechanism that would allow consumers to easily opt out of all online tracking, but did not call for any kind of a national registry or list of people who have opted out.

A surprisingly high proportion of consumers -- 25% -- said they regularly opt out of online tracking, while 40% said they regularly clear their cookies, caches or Web history.

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