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Most US citizens reject online tracking, survey finds

Warwick Ashford

Most US citizens do not want any information collected about which websites they visit, according to a survey by the University of California.

But nearly 90% of those polled said they had never heard of the do not track (DNT) mechanism, proposed by the US Federal Trade Commission, according to the New York Times.

The proposed mechanism would let web users opt out of having their personal data collected for the purposes of targeted or personalised advertising.  

Asked what they would like a DNT function to do, 60% said they like it to prevent websites from collecting any information about them.

One-fifth said such a tool should allow them to block websites from serving up ads, and 14% said they would like it to prevent websites from tailoring advertisements based on sites they had visited.

The study revealed that 20% were under the impression that advertisers were not allowed to track people when they browsed medical sites, while only a third correctly said that they could be tracked by marketers.

Supporters of targeted advertising claim that non-targeted advertising generates less revenue which means less free content and services for internet users.

But the latest survey reveals that 85% of respondents said they “never” or “hardly ever” clicked on a search or banner advertisement.

Two-thirds said they found such advertising “never” or “hardly ever” useful, while 30% said they found it useful “often” or “sometimes.”

In August, The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Google $22.5m for monitoring users of Safari browsers, even though they had a "do not track" privacy setting selected.

The FTC said it fined Google for misrepresenting what it was doing, not for the methods it used to bypass Safari's privacy settings.

The FTC launched an investigation after a Stanford University researcher reported that Google was bypassing browser privacy settings.

Privacy groups welcomed the FTC's action against Google, saying it is vital that any organisation that seeks to override consumer choices about sharing their data is held to account.


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