I’ve argued many times now, there’s momentum toward some sort of regulation of behavioral targeting. And now in my best “Yoda” voice: regulation is coming, prepared must you be. More support for regulation comes in the form of a new survey reported in the NY Times:
About two-thirds of Americans object to online tracking by advertisers — and that number rises once they learn the different ways marketers are following their online movements, according to a new survey from professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley.
The professors say they believe the study, scheduled for release on Wednesday, is the first independent, nationally representative telephone survey on behavioral advertising.
Here’s what the report itself says:
- Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests. Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages—between 73% and 86%–say they would not want such advertising.
- Even when they are told that the act of following them on websites will take place anonymously, Americans’ aversion to it remains: 68% “definitely” would not allow it, and 19% would “probably” not allow it.
- A majority of Americans also does not want discounts or news fashioned specifically for them, though the percentages are smaller than the proportion rejecting ads.
- 69% of American adults feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
- 92% agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”
- 63% believe advertisers should be required by law to immediately delete information about their Internet activity.
- Americans mistakenly believe that current government laws restrict companies from selling wide-ranging data about them. When asked true-false questions about companies’ rights to share and sell information about their activities online and off, respondents on average answer only 1.5 of 5 online laws and 1.7 of the 4 offline laws correctly because they falsely assume government regulations prohibit the sale of data.
- Signaling frustration over privacy issues, Americans are inclined toward strict punishment of information offenders. 70% suggest that a company should be fined more than the maximum amount suggested ($2,500) “if a company purchases or uses someone’s information illegally.”
- When asked to choose what, if anything should be a company’s single punishment beyond fines if it “uses a person’s information illegally,” 38% of Americans answer that the company should “fund efforts to help people protect privacy.” But over half of Americans adults are far tougher: 18% choose that the company should “be put out of business” and 35% select that “executives who are responsible should face jail time.”
People are saying very explicitly that they don’t want targeted (read: relevant) ads. Also, look that the punitive attitudes in the bullets at the end.
There’s a clear difference between attitudes and behavior. People don’t want to be tracked but the do respond to targeted ads and deal offers, etc.
This survey will be taken as conclusive proof of the need for regulation — conclusive. The only question will be about the burdensomeness, the disclosure requirements, etc. Search advertising will be largely unaffected (although data retention will be an issue for search engines). It’s display that will suffer as a result.
Who disagrees with me?
Thanks Kevin Lee for pointing me to the IAB self-regulation statement. But as George Bush the first might have said, “That’s not goin’ ta do it.”