Online Privacy Worries Increase with Age

March 6, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Data-driven | Men | Personalization | Privacy & Security | Retail & E-Commerce | Women

The vast majority of web surfers in the US are concerned about the privacy of their information online, and though there is significant concern among all ages, the levels of concern are even higher among older Americans, according to a study from Burst Media.

The survey, which was undertaken to understand how privacy concerns affect the internet experience and perceptions of advertising, found that more than 80% of online Americans are concerned about the privacy of personal information such as age, gender, income and web-surfing habits.

Moreover, while concern about privacy is prevalent among all age segments, it increases with the respondent’s age, rising from from 67.3% among respondents ages 18-24 to 85.7% among respondents ages 55+.

Most Believe Web Sites Track Surfing Behavior

The survey found that most web users believe websites are tracking their behavior online. Three out of five (62.5%) respondents indicate it is likely that a web site they visit collects information on how they navigate and interact with it.

Less than one-half (44.5%) of respondents say it is likely that web sites track personally identifiable information (PII) of web users, while one-fifth (20.2%) say it is unlikely, and 35.3% are unsure. Men and women respond similarly and older segments are much more likely than younger segments to say websites track personally identifiable information.


Three out of five (62.5%) respondents say it is likely that a web site they visit collects information on how they navigate and interact with it. Interestingly, respondents 18-24 years are the only age segment where less than half (47.8%) say a web site tracks such information.

Anonymity Is Suspect

Three out of five (61.9%) respondents say it is likely that a web site collects non-PII – such as a visitor’s geographic location or type of internet connection. The proportion saying a website tracks non-personally identifiable information increases as the age of the respondent increases.

Consumers Wary of Behavioral Targeting

Based strictly on a description – advertisements more relevant to interest – only one-in-five (23.2%) respondents would not mind if non-personally identifiable information was collected if ads were better targeted. There was a notable difference in the response of men and women with men more likely than women to say they would not mind the targeting of ads based on non-personally identifiable information, 26.7% vs. 19.9%


“Online privacy is a prevailing concern for web surfers,” said Chuck Moran, VP of marketing for Burst Media. “Advertisers must take concrete actions to mitigate consumers’ privacy concerns and at the same time continue to deliver their message as effectively as possible. In addition and as recently seen in the news flare up regarding Facebook’s privacy controversy, publishers need to be completely transparent about their privacy policies.”

About the survey: The online survey, was conducted in December 2008. Survey findings are based on more than 4,000 responses from adults 18+.

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