Survey: 87 Percent Want “Do Not Track” To Elude Marketers

There’s a massive gap between marketers’ increasingly aggressive use of data and consumers’ desire not to be tracked and targeted. This is not a new issue. However a new survey from social marketing firm Communispace underscores the chasm.

The firm conducted an online consumer survey last year (n=8,343), with respondents from multiple countries. Most however (87 percent) were from the US. The overwhelming conclusion is that consumers care very much about privacy and are concerned about data-mining and tracking. 

The most striking survey finding is that 87 percent would enable or click a “do not track” button if it were available. The survey also found that a substantial 30 percent of respondents would be willing to pay some sort of premium or surcharge to prevent marketers from capturing their data.

Despite these strong feelings consumers are willing to trade their data for deals, points or discounts. Younger people are more willing to do so than older consumers: “60 percent of Millennials would willingly share their data for coupons or promotions while only 38 percent of the Silent Generation say this.”

Given the apparent hostility to data-mining and targeting in the survey, the price of consumer data sharing was relatively cheap. Communispace found that 70 percent would share their data for only a 5 percent discount. Rather than the intensity of their feelings this may reflect that consumers don’t know the real value of their personal information.

When it comes to purchasing something or conducting research online, most survey respondents wanted to do something like use a search engine or go to a site where they could do their own research. Only a small minority (14 percent) wanted to passively receive offers based on their audience category, online behavior or search histories.

Perhaps most interestingly, nearly a quarter of respondents (24 percent) were interested in some sort of hybrid approach in which they “announced” their shopping interests to selected vendors and then “invited” them to bid for their business, RFP style.

Many agencies and marketers will dismiss this data with paternalistic rationalizations such as “Consumers don’t really know what they want” or “What consumers say and what they do are different things.” Still others will say things like “Consumers want relevant ads; how do they think that happens?”

Despite these familiar refrains, consumers have been pretty consistent in their desire not to be tracked or have their data captured (and transferred or sold in the background) without their knowledge. For additional examples see the stories below.

Related Entries 

About The Author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.