Britons are concerned about their private e-mails being scanned to allow them to be targeted by tailored ad campaigns.
More than 40% of British consumers have concerns about their free e-mail provider scanning their personal e-mails for advertising purposes, according to research from free e-mail provider GMX, which does not scan its 11 million active users for ad campaigns.
From those surveyed, 40% did not know that it was common practice at some large free e-mail providers to scan private e-mails for keywords that are then linked to targeted advertising around their inbox.
The survey of 1,800 UK consumers also found that Britons are heavily reliant on their free e-mail services, with the average Briton using two separate personal accounts and checking them at least once a day.
One third of Britons (33%) believed that users should be able to opt out of ad scanning should they so wish. Not all users agreed though, with 18% of respondents saying they were not bothered by the practice, and 2% regarding the practice as being in their best interest.
Those most dissatisfied with the practice were in the 25-34 year old age group. By geographical location, London was by far the most concerned region, with over 46% there concerned.
Although all e-mail providers, including GMX, automatically scan incoming e-mail content in order to help protect users from Spam or virus e-mails, many of GMX's competitors use private e-mail content in the body of an e-mail to tailor advertising to the individual user.
A number of ISPs are also now considering using the Phorm web behaviour tracking system, to allow their customers to be better targeted by ads. This has already caused a privacy outcry.