Study: Web Users Don't See AdChoices Icon

Only around one in five Web users say they notice the AdChoices icon, which is aimed at telling consumers about online behavioral advertising, according to research slated to be unveiled today by the University of Pennsylvania's Joe Turow.

Most Web users, 55%, say they don't know whether they have seen the icon,  while 24% say they have not, Turow says. The findings come from a survey of nearly 1,500 Americans about attitudes regarding online ad targeting. The study also found that the overwhelming majority of respondents, 86%, disliked targeted political ads. That finding was released in July, but the data about the AdChoices icon wasn't made public at the time.

Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, is presenting his research today at a meeting convened by the Commerce Department.

The AdChoices icon -- the centerpiece of the ad industry's self-regulatory efforts -- is served in around 1 trillion ad impressions each month. The symbols, consisting of a lower case 'i' inside a triangle on its side, typically say "AdChoices" and appear in the top corner of behaviorally targeted ads. Consumers who click on the icons are taken to a page where they can learn more about online behavioral advertising -- or how companies mine users' Web-surfing history in order to serve them ads -- and opt out of that form of advertising.

A study released in April by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University also raised questions about whether the icons effectively inform Web users about data-based advertising. For that report, researchers tested how 1,500 Web users interpreted the icons, taglines and landing pages. Most users "mistakenly believed that ads would pop up if they clicked on disclosure icons and taglines," the report says. More than six in 10 users, 63%, believed that opting out would stop online tracking; in fact, most ad networks only promise to stop sending targeted ads to people who opt out (though some also stop tracking those users).

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