Lack of trust is affecting how consumers use the Internet

68% of US smartphone users are concerned about having their activity tracked to serve them targeted ads, suggesting that most smartphone users are uncomfortable with the idea of online behavioral advertising (OBA), according to TRUSTe.

However, research also showed that awareness of the AdChoices icon, part of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) Self-Regulatory Program for OBA jumped to 37% – a significant increase from 21% the previous year. This program provides users with more control over their online ad experience with the option to opt-out of personal targeting.

As consumers become more aware of how they can control the types of ads they see, they are more likely to feel positive about online behavioral advertising in general. One in three (33%) said that the information available on AdChoices, along with the option of opting out of OBA would make them feel more positive about the concept of targeted ads.

Lack of consumer trust is currently affecting how consumers are using the internet as 77% of US consumers who say they worry about their privacy online moderated their online activity in the previous twelve months due to privacy concerns.

With close to 2 in 3 adults (65%) concerned about advertisers and websites tracking their internet browsing activity and using this information to provide targeted adverts, this suggests that tracking activity for targeted ads plays a huge part in contributing to these concerns. Of those who did moderate their activity, 74% did not click on an online ad – the most common action taken due to privacy concerns.

“Our research shows that the majority of Americans are still uneasy about having their online activity tracked for use in targeted ads, mainly because they feel like they have limited control,” said Chris Babel, CEO, TRUSTe. “The good news is that awareness of the AdChoices icon, which gives users more control over their ad experience, has risen substantially and continues to have the potential for positive impact on consumer attitudes. As more and more consumers understand how their information is being tracked and the choices they have to opt-out, the more we’ll start to see consumers embrace the concept of OBA and realize the benefits, such as receiving great deals from their favorite online retailers.

These findings are based on data from an online survey conducted by Ipsos, commissioned by TRUSTe, with 1,000 adults aged 18-75 in the US between November 28 and December 5 2014.

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