While I was working on the last couple of posts about data correlation, trusty old RSS brought in a corroborating piece by Colin McKay at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Many in the industry seem to assume people will trade any of their personal information for the smallest trinkets, so more empirical work of the kind reported here seems to be essential.
‘How comfortable, exactly, are online users with their information and online browsing habits being used to track their behaviour and serve ads to them?
‘A survey of Canadian respondents, conducted by TNS Facts and reported by the Canadian Marketing Association, reports that a large number of Canadians and Americans “(69% and 67% respectively) are aware that when they are online their browsing behaviour may be captured by third parties for advertising purposes.”
‘That doesn’t mean they are comfortable with the practice. The same survey notes that “just 33 per cent of Canadians who are members of a site are comfortable with these sites using their browsing information to improve their site experience. There is no difference in support for the use of consumers’ browsing history to serve them targeted ads, be it with the general population, the privacy concerned, or members of a site.”’
If only only 33% are comfortable with using browsing information to improve site experience, I wonder how many will be comfortable with using browsing information to evaluate terminating of peoples’ credit cards (see thread on Martinism)? Can I take a guess? How about 1%? (This may seem high, but I have a friend in the direct marketing world who tells me 1% of the population will believe in anything at all!) Colin continues:
‘But how much information are users willing to consciously hand over to win access to services, prizes or additional content?
‘A survey of 1800 visitors to coolsavings.com, a coupon and rebate site owned by Q Interactive, has claimed that web visitors are willing “to receive free online services and information in exchange for the use of my data to target relevant advertising to me.”
‘Now, my impression is that visitors to sites like coolsavings.com – who are actively seeking out value and benefits online – would be predisposed to believing that online sites would be able to deliver useful content and relevant ads.
‘That said, Mediapost, who had access to details of the full Q Interactive survey, cautions that users “… continue to put the brakes on hard when asked which specific information they are willing to hand over. The survey found 77.8% willing to give zip code, 64.9% their age and 72.3% their gender, but only 22.4% said they wanted to share the Web sites they visited and only 12% and 12.1% were willing to have their online purchases or the search history respectively to be shared …” ‘
I want to underline Colin's point. These statistics come from people who actively sought out a coupon site in order to trade information for benefits! Even so, we are talking about a mere 12% who were willing to have their online purchases or search history shared. This empirically nixes the notion, held by some, that people don't care about data correlation (an issue I promised to address in my last post.
Colin's conclusions seem consistent with the idea I sketched there of defining a new “right to data correlation” and requiring delegation of that right before trusted parties can correlate individuals across contexts.
‘In both the TNS Facts/CMA and Q Interactive surveys, the results seem to indicate that users are willing to make a conscious decision to share information about themselves – especially if it is with sites they trust and with whom they have an established relationship.
‘A common thread seems to be emerging: consumers see a benefit to providing specific data that will help target information relevant to their needs, but they are less certain about allowing their past behaviour to be used to make inferences about their individual preferences.
‘They may feel their past search and browsing habits might just have a greater impact on their personal and professional life than the limited re-distribution of basic personal information by sites they trust. Especially if those previous habits might be seen as indiscreet, even obscene.’
Colin's conclusion points to the need to be able to “revoke the right to data correlation” that may have been extended to third parties. It also underlines the need for a built-in scheme for aging and deletion of correlation data.