NSA Surveillance Prompts Web Users To Protect Privacy

People are more concerned about online privacy now than before the recent revelations about National Security Agency's extensive surveillance efforts, according to a new study by Omnicom's data marketing unit Annalect.

Last month, 57% of Web users surveyed by Annalect said they were “concerned” or “very concerned” about online privacy. But in June, only 48% of surveyed Web users said the same, according to Annalect. The company attributes that increase to news that broke in June about the NSA capturing metadata associated with telephone calls, as well as the substance of emails (and other content) sent by some Web users.

Almost one in three Web users -- 31% -- specifically said the NSA revelations had prompted them to take steps to protect their privacy, such as by editing social media profiles, using different search engines or blocking cookies.

Those activities won't necessarily affect the NSA's data collection. But they indicate that consumers are trying to assert control over their data, says Omnicom senior counsel Stephen Kline. “Consumers take whatever actions they think they can,” Kline says.

Annalect says in its report that if consumers continue to block cookies -- or if Mozilla follows through with its plan to disable third-party cookies automatically -- advertisers might need to “develop other means to quantify digital business practices.”

Adam Gitlin, global managing director for digital analytics at Annalect's data group, adds that cookies are only one approach to measurement. “As has been the case with the industry for decades, we'll continue to evolve how we measure and triangulate consumer consumption patterns and campaign performance,” he tells Online Media Daily. “I would never expect there to be a single bullet for how we measure success, no matter what the medium.”

Gitlin says that Annalect is “looking at all possibilities” for tracking people without cookies.

Other digital marketing executives have floated the idea of turning to “device fingerprinting” -- which relies on tracking people by the characteristics associated with people's computers, including their operating systems, time zones, screen size, and installed plug-ins.

Annalect surveys 700 Web users every month for its reports on privacy.
2 comments about "NSA Surveillance Prompts Web Users To Protect Privacy".
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  1. GH Crosby from None, August 15, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.

    I think the self-help trend will continue to grow, and cookie blocking is just the beginning. More people are going to start using tools like Tails & TOR for browsing, Textcrypt for text messages and Cellcrypt for mobile phone calls. Then, take everything off of Dropbox, Instagram, iCloud, etc, and stash it all in a Cloudlocker (www.cloudlocker.it) which works just the same but stays in the house where they still need a warrant to get inside.

    I'm sure we're going to seem more and better tools like these appear soon as good ol Yankee ingenuity revs up. What a shame that it's come to this.

  2. Stephanie Miller from Aprimo Inc., August 15, 2013 at 7:38 p.m.

    Interesting findings, and good summary, Wendy.

    We all must educate consumers and non-marketers about the value of responsible data driven marketing - which has NOTHING to do with NSA and other government surveillance programs. The behavior cited here is a good example of the misinformation that exists among both consumers and policy makers about targeted marketing adds value to our digital lifestyles.

    Consumers like choice, and having relevant advertising shown to them - and they demonstrate it every day through programs like Ad Options (aboutads.info). We also created a policy-speak translator (a link is on our DMA Advance blog) that helps marketers understand that what we think is cool, policy makers (and some consumers) sometimes think is creepy.

    Stephanie Miller
    VP, DMA

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