U.S. Adults Wary Of Web-Use Tracking

U.S. Adults Wary Of Web-Use Tracking

By Antone Gonsalves / InformationWeek
Thu Apr 10,  20084:38 PM ET

A majority of U.S. adults are uncomfortable with Web sites using a
person’s online activity to deliver customized content, a study
released Thursday showed.

However, Harris Interactive found that people became more
comfortable after they were presented with Web-site privacy and
security policies recommended by the Federal Trade Commission.

Based on a nationwide survey of more than 2,500 U.S. adults, the
study found that six in 10 respondents were skeptical when Web sites
like those from Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft used visitors’ online
activity to tailor advertisements or content based on their hobbies or
interests. A quarter of the respondents were "not at all comfortable,"
and 34% were "not very comfortable."

The remaining 41% were split between the 7% of people who were "very
comfortable," and the 34% who said they were "somewhat comfortable."

Columbia University professor and study designer Alan F. Westin said
the study showed a disconnection between Web sites and Web users. The
former argues that users are likely to consider free e-mail accounts,
the lessening of irrelevant ads, and other benefits as worth the
tradeoff of having their activities tracked. "Though our question
flagged this position, 59% of current online users clearly do not
accept it," Westin said in a statement.

Researchers found a change in attitude after the FTC-recommended
privacy/security policies were introduced. The recommendations include
greater disclosure on use of data and consumer control, limited data
retention, and opt-in consent for material changes to existing privacy
promises and for use of sensitive data.

If these conditions were applied, then 55% of the respondents to
Harris’ survey said they would be more comfortable with Web companies
using information from visitors’ activities.

 

See original article on InformationWeek.com

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