Amazon Recommending Offers? Cool. Facebook? No Thanks

Harris Interactive quantifies consumer trust

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Consumers are twice as comfortable with Amazon using their purchase history to target their offers compared to Facebook employing user profile data to do the same, according to a new research study by Harris Interactive.

According to the report, 66 percent of consumers (who were aware that data is generally employed by platforms to target them) said Amazon using their buying behavior data to pitch offers was “somewhat to very acceptable.” Just 41 percent said they were comfortable with Google leveraging their search data for ad targeting. Only 33 percent said that Facebook's using profile data to target offers was "somewhat to very acceptable."

But there’s a silver lining for Facebook among younger women. The study found that 52 percent of females between 18 and 34 years of age (again, among those who are already aware of the use of ad targeting data) are comfortable with Facebook’s practice.

Interestingly, no matter the age group, consumers appear to be cool with a coupon marketer who utilizes their data. Eighty-one percent of adults surveyed said they were OK with a grocery store using purchase data to tailor coupons for them.

New York-based Harris Interactive polled 2,262 consumers in February to come to these findings. Location-based marketing technology firm Placecast commissioned the research.

Placecast chief executive Alistair Goodman said Facebook’s having trouble convincing users that their personal data is a fair exchange for the free-to-use social site. “In contrast, Amazon is a company just a few years older than Facebook, but they have created a scenario where consumers understand and accept the benefit their data provides for the service they are receiving—much like consumers' acceptance of grocery coupons tied to purchase data,” Goodman said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Harris Interactive’s research also found that 38 percent of those surveyed were comfortable with a local merchant sending them offers on their phones. Not surprisingly, young adults were more open to mobile marketing, with 51 percent of those between 18 and 34 saying they are fine with location-based data being used as advertising fuel.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.