Consumers Will Provide Information for Personalization

A majority of Internet users want information that is tailored to their needs and are willing to provide information about their preferences to receive personalized advertisements if they are given notice and choice, according to a survey by Privacy & American Business.

The survey, which was conducted by Opinion Research and underwritten by a grant from DoubleClick, Inc., explored Internet users’ willingness to provide individualized data or have it acquired from other sources in return for personalized messages when notice and “opt out” choice were provided.

Of the Internet users surveyed, 61 percent are interested in receiving banner advertisements that are tailored to their personal preferences. More than half of Internet users (representing 47-63 million Americans) would agree to have information based on their offline and online transactions used to personalize banner ads to them when they are informed how their information would be used and are given the chance to opt out of uses they did not approve.

Most Internet users who are interested in online personalization expect companies to follow privacy policies that ensure consumers notice and choice, the survey found.

The survey tested Internet users’ opinions of six information sources used for online personalization. In each case, a majority of Internet users found it acceptable for companies to use individualized information to present banner ads to them when given notice and choice.

  • 68 percent of users would provide personal information
  • 58 percent of respondents would agree to have their Web site visits used for personalization
  • 51 percent of users would agree to have their online purchase information used
  • 53 percent would be willing to have their offline purchase information from catalogs and stores used
  • 52 percent would agree to have their offline and online purchasing information combined
  • 53 percent of respondents say they would agree to the combination of personal information, Web site visits, and on/offline purchases

“A key finding of this survey is that a majority of consumers are interested in receiving tailored advertising messages based on their online and offline transactions when they are provided notice and a choice to ‘opt out’,” said Kevin Ryan, President of DoubleClick, Inc.

The survey’s findings are based on the responses of 474 Internet users drawn from a representative national sample.

A study by IBM and Louis Harris & Associates of consumers in the United States, Germany, and the UK found that companies that want to be successful doing business on the Web must provide the personalized service that Web users want and must also ensure the protection of consumers’ privacy.

The IBM Multi-National Consumer Privacy Study found that consumers who are likely to shop online (well educated, disposable income, and somewhat tech-savvy) are also more likely to be concerned about online privacy and will take steps to protect personal information.

Nearly half of the respondents in the US and the UK, and one-quarter of the German respondents to the look for a privacy statement on Web sites. Sixty-three percent of the respondents who use the Internet have refused to give information to Web sites when they perceive that information will be compromised or when privacy policies are unclear. Forty percent have decided not to purchase something online due to privacy concerns.

“The importance of helping clients promote trust and confidence among customers both on and off the Internet should not be underestimated,” said J.C. Slemp, IBM’s Director for e-business Security and Privacy. “If a customer leaves your site without making a purchase because of a concern for privacy, then your privacy policies and procedures are not where they should be.”

Other findings from the IBM survey include:

  • While most people believe businesses handle information appropriately, Internet businesses (when compared to brick and mortar) are at the low end in terms of trust and confidence results, with far fewer consumers saying they trust how those businesses handle information
  • Americans are most active when it comes to protecting their privacy. They are twice as likely to ask to examine their personal files
  • Consumers in all three countries believe that privacy policies are essential to them when they are online, regardless of country-imposed legislation

As the debate rages as to who is responsible for safeguarding the privacy of online consumers, an @plan Internet Poll™ found evidence that online users believe the Internet should be self-policed as a safeguard to privacy.

According to the @plan poll, 64 percent of online users say the Internet, not the Federal Government, can better protect consumer privacy online. This belief transcends political partisanship, with 60 percent of registered Democrats and more than 70 percent of registered Republicans saying the Internet industry should regulate itself.

In addition, most online users consider controlling how the information that Web sites collect about them is a top priority.

“While privacy appears to be a major concern online, it does not translate into a big demand for government regulation,” said Mark K. Wright, CEO of @plan. “Online users feel that privacy safeguards will be best met through self-regulation.”

The @plan poll randomly sampled 1,000 US adult active Internet users by telephone.

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