Do consumers trust the government more than big business with personal data? Does it matter?

According to TRUSTe’s 2014 study, the answer may be a bit more complicated. 58% of users concerned with online privacy choose “Business sharing my personal information with other companies” as the primary reason for their concern. 38% of users chose “reports of government surveillance” as the primary cause. Overall 92% of internet users worry about their online privacy, with 47% of users indicating their worry is frequent or always. This means advertisers are theoretically entering the market with virtually every user’s guard up.

Concerns from users regarding privacy aren’t new. Pushback from government regulators sparked a rapid response from the online marketing industry to self-regulate and show a greater level of transparency to consumers. Most notably, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) created the Ad Choices program in 2010. The triangular icon placed in the top right corner of banners served from Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) gives consumers information on how they were targeted, as well as how to opt-out of cookie tracking.

Many in the industry question whether this seemingly ubiquitous distrust in online advertising matters when it comes to the bottom line performance. Users are concerned, sure, but are they actively looking to opt out? Do they care enough to seek out the relevant information? Studies suggest 74% of users are unaware of AdChoices and the ability to opt-out of behavioral tracking.

Advertisers may be aware of the problem, but seem unclear on a solution. A recent study by the Ponemon Institute, a trust and privacy research organization, found that though 70% of online marketers agree OBA increases marketing performance, 98% of the same marketers polled agree that privacy concerns limit spending on OBA.

Fear the Smartphone

Trust issues continue on mobile as well. 80% of smartphone users actively avoid apps perceived to have poor privacy protection. Mobile advertising traffic is increasing at a rapid rate, and so is the level of concern amongst users.

To combat this, as of September 1, 2015, the DAA is requiring all participating interest-based advertising on mobile to require the same Ad Choices logo as desktop, along with a link to privacy policies and opt-out information. It will be interesting to track how an expansion to mobile will affect the overall exposure of Ad Choices as an advocacy tool.

Rising Concerns

As privacy concerns among users continue to rise, advertisers cannot ignore this shift in the long run. Performance is strong in Online Behavioral Advertising, but advertisers are increasingly worried about turning more users off with privacy invasion. The Ad Choices campaign is a solid attempt at informing more users about behavioral targeting, but it is imperative that the industry do more.

If we don’t adapt and address concerns, we run the risk of the powers that be making the rules for us.

David Wekselbaum
Just Media, Inc.

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