Consumers resist online tracking

7 February 2013

LONDON: Two-thirds of the internet audience are keen to stop advertisers tracking their behaviour on the web, a multimarket study has found.

Ovum, the research firm, surveyed 11,000 members of the online population in 11 countries around the world to ascertain current perspectives about the collection of personal data via this channel.

Fully 68% of respondents would select a "do-not-track" feature if it was "easily available", effectively making these individuals "invisible" as far as targeted advertising is concerned.

Ovum suggested this attitude was working alongside increasing regulatory oversight of such activities, meaning a "data black hole could soon open up under the internet economy."

Mark Little, principal analyst at Ovum, said: "Unfortunately, in the gold rush that is big data, taking the supply of 'little data' - personal data - for granted seems to be an accident waiting to happen.

"However, consumers are being empowered with new tools and services to monitor, control, and secure their personal data as never before, and it seems they increasingly have the motivation to use them."

Ovum further discovered that just 14% of the panel thought online firms were "honest" about how they utilised consumer data, an issue that it stated was fundamental for the industry to resolve.

"Internet companies need a new set of messages to change consumers' attitudes," said Little. Facebook was cited as one player that has faced difficulty in this area, as was Google.

WhatsApp, a messaging app, was also found to have broken Canadian and Dutch privacy regulations, as it could not be used unless smartphone owners surrendered access to their entire contact list.

Earlier this year, a poll of 100k consumers in the US, The Ponemon Institute, the research group, revealed only 35% of the sample agreed they had control over their personal information.

The four "most trusted" companies with regard to protecting privacy were American Express, the financial services giant, HP, the IT expert, Amazon, the online retailer, and IBM, the services provider.

"As individuals embrace advances in technology and social media, they are increasingly concerned with exposing and sharing their sensitive information," said Christina Peters, chief privacy officer at IBM.

Data sourced from Ovum; additional content by Warc staff