Internet users tend to desire customized experiences, whereby content that is relevant to their particular interests is brought easily to their attention. Yet, Internet users have concerns about the revelation of their private information.
Therein lies the crux of the issue when it comes to behavioral advertising, as such advertising targets relevant content for individual users; however to do so, it relies upon information specific to these users.
A recent study by TRUSTe, a consumer privacy organization, and TNS, a global market and insight and information group, highlights the intersection between the desire for specific content and the fear of disclosure of private information.
According to the study, while 71 percent of Internet users know that information relating to their browsing choices may be used by for advertising purposes, only 40 percent are even aware of the term "behavioral advertising." This might indicate that further consumer education and awareness is needed in this area.
The study also reveals that 57 percent of Internet users are uncomfortable with their browsing habits being used to serve up relevant advertisements to them, even when that information is not tied to personal information such as their names. This suggests that currently for the majority of Internet users, privacy concerns trump the provision of targeted content.
Indeed, this point is underscored by 91 percent of Internet users proclaiming an interest in taking steps to protect online privacy by way of tools to control their Internet tracking and advertising experience. This data seems to auger in favor of transparency, choices and education when it comes to behavioral targeting.
Trust is obviously important to Internet users in this area, as 64 percent report that they would choose to view online advertisements only from online sites and brands with whom they already are familiar. Along those lines, 44 percent would go so far as to click on buttons or icons to follow through in this regard.
Furthermore, 42 percent of Internet users state that they would enroll in an online registry to prevent advertisers from tracking their browsing habits, and they would do this even if that translated into them receiving advertisements less relevant to their interests.
Herein lies the dilemma, because, all things being equal, consumers to prefer relevant advertising, and they do not want to be bothered with ads that are not of interest to them. However, consumers, at least when asked, do not want to have their browsing habits tracked in order to receive targeted advertising.
To get over this hump, ample privacy protections need to be put in place to allay consumer concerns. That would protect consumers, inspire their confidence, and it would be good business for advertisers and sellers.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes.
His website is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.
This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.