What Internet users ultimately decide to do about allowing advertisers and Web sites to track them on the Internet will set the stage for the growth or demise of behaviorally targeted advertising. But predicting what Internet users will do when more privacy controls become available is anything but clear-cut, according to a new survey conducted by Omnicom Media Group's Annalect Group.
The survey found that what Internet users say they are going to do about using a Do Not Track button and what they are currently doing about blocking tracking on the Internet, are two different things. Though nearly all Internet users, or 93 percent, said they use or would activate a Do Not Track button on a Web browser, only 22 percent are aware of the function. Only 2 percent use the DNT function on Web browsers that currently exist.
Consumers are less conflicted about the trade-off between behaviorally targeted advertising and free content. Nearly 91 percent are aware that companies track them on the Internet in order to serve up more relevant ads. Half of Internet users, or 52 percent believe they should have sole control over data collected about them, but in the end, most users, 84 percent, prefer targeted advertising in exchange for free online content.
The online survey of 758 adults 18 and older was conducted in late February to gauge the Internet consumer's attitudes towards two recent privacy initiatives in Washington: the Administration's long-awaited publication of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and the simultaneous announcement from the Digital Advertising Alliance that its coalition of Internet ad industry organizations would expand its self-regulation program for behaviorally targeted advertising to include a "do not track" header on browsers.
Despite privacy news dominating the headlines, only about a third, or 37 percent of the survey respondents have even heard of the White House's privacy paper, but attitudes towards the report are mixed with 45 percent stating the privacy rights will be more favorable to their future Internet experience and 43 percent giving a neutral response.