Privacy / Security

85% of online consumers oppose Internet ad tracking

By a ratio of more than 6 to 1, U.S. online consumers are unwilling to trade their personal data, even anonymously, for the sake of being served ads that online advertisers think are more relevant to them, a Consumer Reports nationally representative survey has found.

The finding contradicts a 2013 poll sponsored by the Digital Advertising Alliance that found consumers are “largely comfortable with the value-for-value exchange that interest-based advertising represents,” in the words of the Network Advertising Initiative, the online advertising industry’s self-regulatory association.

In the same Consumer Reports survey, nearly as many online consumers, 76 percent, said that it was of little or no value to them that advertisements displayed on the websites they visit, or the apps they use, push products and services that match their personal interests. About 20 million online consumers use software that blocks online trackers and 3.5 million use a privacy-oriented search engine, the survey projects.

“Advertising and consumers co-existed in the print world and the broadcast world for many years,” Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said in an e-mail. “But now that advertisers are deploying targeted ads on the Internet, consumers are pushing back.”

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