JERSEY CITY, NJ: Consumers often struggle to understand the data privacy conditions laid out by brands online, according to a study by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), the industry body.

Scott McDonald, the trade group’s president/CEO, discussed this subject during a keynote session at its 2018 AUDIENCExSCIENCE conference.

“The principal goal of the survey was to assess consumer attitudes when it comes to digital-data privacy and how well they understood privacy terms,” McDonald said. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: ARF: Reduce T&C clutter and build customer engagement.)

One finding: “Consumers are willing to share a variety of data regarding who they are, but not information that can be used to personally identify them or locate them in the physical world, even if it would enhance customization of their content experience,” said McDonald.

Although the report’s data suggest some actionable findings, perhaps the most important knowledge point is that many consumers actually ignore the opportunity to protect their privacy.

The ARF survey results – both anecdotal and empirical – all pointed to the same conclusions: people most often don’t bother to read the privacy language that regularly puts the finishing touch on digital engagement.

When they did read it, they often didn’t understand it. And they most often were perplexed when faced with seemingly subtle language differences.

A case in point may be trying to separate out terms like “How much personal data are you willing to share with a digital publisher?” as opposed to “How much will you share with a publisher with whom you already have a relationship?”

Another example, said McDonald, is, “What if the brand or service offers the promise of ‘customizing your experience’ – which is often the rationale for sharing data? Is that persuasive or just confusing?”

The ARF survey also offered a simplified, binary “yes/no” indication of what people would share across 20 points of information – including their name, home address, work address, gender, race/ethnicity and Social Security number.

Ninety-five percent of adults proved willing to share their gender, a total standing at 91% for race/ethnicity and 82% for sexual orientation. But 91% would not share their Social Security number, a figure hitting 71% for medical information.

“People are generally willing to share even sensitive classifications, like sexual orientation, on the assumption that those are aggregated rather than targeted,” McDonald said.

Sourced from WARC