US web users say no to online tracking by advertisers

Two thirds of US internet users object to online tracking by advertisers, a joint study by the universities of Pennsylvania and California, Berkeley has...

Two thirds of US internet users object to online tracking by advertisers, a joint study by the universities of Pennsylvania and California, Berkeley has revealed.

The researchers believe the study, due for release today, is the first independent US national study on behavioural advertising, according to the New York Times.

Privacy advocates have expressed growing concerns about the tracking of online activities by advertisers and believe the survey will spur international debate on the issue.

Some 66% of those surveyed said they did not like the idea of personally tailored ads, but that increased after respondents were told how their activities were tracked online and in stores.

An additional 7% said targeted ads were not OK when they were tracked on a website, another 18% said they were unhappy about being tracked via other websites, and another 20% said they were unhappy about being tracked in retail stores.

Sixty nine per cent of respondents said there should be a law that gives internet users the right to know exactly what information a website has collected about them.

Most respondents (92%) said they would support a law that required websites and advertising companies to delete all information about an individual upon request.

Joseph Turow, co-author of the study and a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said people need to have control over the data collected about them.

"The most important thing is to bring the public into the picture, which is not going on right now," he said.

Privacy advocates said the research would give authorities a political green light to enact reasonable rules and policies.

The US Congress is considering such legislation, it was revealed after a coalition of 10 privacy campaigners published a 13-page report about behavioural tracking.

Rick Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, is reportedly drafting the bill.

The European Union's consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva said earlier this year that the situation with regard to privacy, profiling and targeting is not satisfactory.

The European Data Protection Supervisor has made developing a position on profiling a priority this year.

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