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Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It

27 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2009  

Joseph Turow

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication

Jennifer King

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information

Chris Jay Hoofnagle

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information; University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Amy Bleakley

Annenberg Public Policy Center

Michael Hennessy

Annenberg Public Policy Center

Date Written: September 29, 2009

Abstract

This nationally representative telephone (wire-line and cell phone) survey explores Americans' opinions about behavioral targeting by marketers, a controversial issue currently before government policymakers. Behavioral targeting involves two types of activities: following users' actions and then tailoring advertisements for the users based on those actions. While privacy advocates have lambasted behavioral targeting for tracking and labeling people in ways they do not know or understand, marketers have defended the practice by insisting it gives Americans what they want: advertisements and other forms of content that are as relevant to their lives as possible.

Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests. Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages - between 73% and 86% - say they would not want such advertising. Even among young adults, whom advertisers often portray as caring little about information privacy, more than half (55%) of 18-24 years-old do not want tailored advertising. And contrary to consistent assertions of marketers, young adults have as strong an aversion to being followed across websites and offline (for example, in stores) as do older adults.

This survey finds that Americans want openness with marketers. If marketers want to continue to use various forms of behavioral targeting in their interactions with Americans, they must work with policymakers to open up the process so that individuals can learn exactly how their information is being collected and used, and then exercise control over their data. We offer specific proposals in this direction. An overarching one is for marketers to implement a regime of information respect toward the public rather than to treat them as objects from which they can take information in order to optimally persuade them.

Keywords: Behavioral advertising, online advertising, privacy, transparency, consumer protection

JEL Classification: D12, D18

Suggested Citation

Turow, Joseph and King, Jennifer and Hoofnagle, Chris Jay and Bleakley, Amy and Hennessy, Michael, Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It (September 29, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1478214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1478214

Joseph Turow

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication ( email )

3620 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215 898 5842 (Phone)

Jennifer King

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information ( email )

102 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Chris Hoofnagle (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information ( email )

212 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
United States
510-643-0213 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://hoofnagle.berkeley.edu

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

344 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-643-0213 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://hoofnagle.berkeley.edu

Amy Bleakley

Annenberg Public Policy Center ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/StaffList.aspx

Michael Hennessy

Annenberg Public Policy Center ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/StaffList.aspx

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