Consumers Well Aware of Behavioral Tracking, Targeting – Don’t Like It Much

March 31, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Personalization | Privacy & Security | Regulatory | Retail & E-Commerce

Consumers say they want relevant advertising but don’t want to be tracked in order to get it: 57% say they are not comfortable with behavioral tracking even if it’s done anonymously, according to a TRUSTe study conducted by TNS.


Marketers use behavioral targeting to deliver a more customized experience (i.e., relevant ads) and to improve their marketing metrics, but they run up against consumer privacy concerns and calls for greater transparency around techniques.

Online consumers indicated a high level of awareness of behavioral targeting and tracking methods:

  • 71% say they are aware that their browsing information may be collected by a third party for advertising purposes:


  • A similar proportion (74%) say they are aware of online security risks and threats to privacy:


  • However, just 40% are familiar with the term “behavioral targeting.”

Some 96% of respondents say privacy is at least somewhat important to them. Accordingly…

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) would choose to see online ads only from online stores and brands that they know and trust:
    • 44% of respondents would click buttons or icons to make that happen.
    • 42% say they would sign up for an online registry that would block advertisers from tracking their behaviors, even if it meant they would receive more less-relevant ads.
  • 54% of respondents say they delete their cookies at least 2-3 times a month.

“Education once again appears to be the key to finding a constructive balance between behavioral targeting and consumer privacy, because no matter how much we assure anonymity, there is still significant discomfort with the idea of tracking,” said Fran Maier, executive director of TRUSTe.

“We have a solid indication that consumers want us to find a way to get them the advertising that is relevant to them. In order to do this, behavioral targeting is one of the most promising methods, but at the very least it has to be made more transparent, provide choices, and deliver real value.”

About the study: TNS conducted an online survey among a randomly selected sample of American adults whose households belong to TNS’s online consumer panel. In total, 1,015 interviews were completed, Feb. 1-5, 2008. Data were weighted by region, market size, age, gender and household size, composition and income, to reflect the demographic composition of the online adult population in the continental US.

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