Customized Content Makes Users Uncomfortable

Privacy policies ease concern

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A majority (59%) of U.S. adults are not comfortable when Web sites like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft use information about a person’s online activity to target ads or content based on a person’s interests, according to a new survey from Harris Interactive and Dr. Alan F. Westin, Professor of Public Law and Government Emeritus at Columbia University.

A quarter (25%) is not at all comfortable with such practices and 34 percent are not very comfortable. The remaining 41 percent who say they are comfortable with Web sites personalizing content is divided between 7 percent who are very comfortable and 34 percent who are somewhat comfortable.

Dr. Westin said," Websites pursuing customized or behavioral marketing maintain that the benefits to online users that advertising revenues make possible – such as free emails or free searches and potential lessening of irrelevant ads – should persuade most online users that this is a good tradeoff. Though our question flagged this position, 59 percent of current online users clearly do not accept it."

After four privacy/security policies were introduced, U.S. adults changed their views. By 55 to 45 percent, a majority of U.S. adults said they would be more comfortable with companies using information about a person’s online activities to provide customized advertising or content.

Once the privacy/security policies were introduced the percentage of those who are very comfortable increases only slightly to 9 percent from 7 percent. The percentage who are somewhat comfortable with the privacy/security policies has a larger increase to 46 percent from 34 percent.

Those who are not at all comfortable fall to 19 percent from 25 percent, and those who are not very comfortable drop to 26 percent from 34 percent.

Breaking it down by age the survey found a generational difference. Those who are younger Echo Boomers (aged 18-31) and Gen Xers (aged 32-43) are initially more comfortable with Web sites customizing content than Baby Boomers (aged 44-62) and Matures (aged 63 or older).

After being presented with the privacy / security polices, all generations level of comfort increase. Echo Boomers increase to 62 percent from 49 percent.  Gen X’ers increase to 56 percent from 45 percent. Baby Boomers comfort increases to 52 percent from 34 percent. Matures remain somewhat uncomfortable with Web sites tailoring advertising and content but the level of support rises from 46 percent from 31 percent.

Dr. Westin said," The failure of a larger percentage of respondents to express comfort after four privacy policies were specified may have two bases – concerns that web companies would actually follow voluntary guidelines, even if they espoused them, and the absence of any regulatory or enforcement mechanism in the privacy policy steps outlined in the question."

Customized Content Makes Users Uncomfortable
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  • Guest

    It’s a sad reflection of "youth of today" that they’re so trusting.

    I don’t like using Gmail or Yahoo for anything sensitve and am utterly gobsmacked that people would use the same company they advertise with, complete with Voodoo algo for pricing, as they use for site stats and sales performance.

    Gullibe isn’t the word I’m thinking of. More like "stupid".

    A site such as Amazon recognising me and offering me stuff I might be interested in is OK, to find sites I’ve never seen before doing the same thing is just plain creepy. As for "enforcement", sure that is a concern but so is the fact the government itself is peering over my shoulder too!

    • http://www.propdata.co.za Robert

      Trusting?  Nah, more a case of big brother is watching, might as well make sure that he plays back the funnier home videos on demand.

      Simply put systems are already tracking us.  When was the last time anyone argued over a site tracking you with Google Analytics?  It keeps quite a bit of info.  With that in mind, I as a webmaster could basically track your movements and do pretty much anything I liked anyway.

      When was the last time a site was forced to state: "We use Google Analytics to track user behaviour" ?

      And, lets face it, Government is the least of most people’s worries.

  • http://www.madsdam.net Mads Dam

    Guest: "It’s a sad reflection of ‘youth of today’ that they’re so trusting…"

    Plato: "What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

    Certain things never change, it seems…

  • http://www.riversagency.com catalog design chapel hill

    its a fine line between trust and mistrust of online advirtisers.  I dont know if  this manipulation of ads is good or bad for the users, i think they will eventually start distrusting the ads all together.

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