In order to get an insight of the general views held around the use of data to tailor ads, I conducted a survey across my social media platforms and asked people for their opinions on the subject.
My first question was to try and understand how people feel about targeted advertising. My surveys (which consisted of a sample of approximately 200 people), produced the following results.
Across a sample of 206 people, 111 claimed they like targeted ads while 95 expressed a dislike for them. Here are some of the opinions that I received:
‘I’d prefer seeing something I’m potentially interested in rather than seeing something I’m never gonna care about’
‘I’m a bit of a conspiracy freak (and I writer, so yeah my searches online are a bit weird sometimes, making me look suicidal, psychotic, and obsessive) so I’m not a fan of it. I’m more of a fan of being able to sell yourself with your charisma and rhetoric rather than personalised ads. Although there are positives to them, like finding out about local opportunities. I just wish people didn’t make money based on my sexuality, you know what I mean?’
‘I really don’t [like personalised ads]? I might just be weird, but it just feels like I’m having it shoved right down my throat or like my privacy is being invaded or something.’
‘I clicked “I like” but it’s more an “I don’t mind”… I don’t hate them, and sometimes I actually see stuff I like. However they annoy me on twitter and Instagram because they look just like posts and that annoys me… things like fb where you can tell it’s an ad straight away are better.’
‘I actually don’t mind targeted ads. I know that most people hate them because it means that what they normally look at is spied on, but I’ve bought so much good stuff through it that I wouldn’t have found before!’
‘I like targeted ads because if there has to be any advertisement at all I’d rather it be something I’m interested in but I do find it a little unnerving that they are watching/recording my every move’
‘I don’t mind [targeted ads] either. The ones that appear because of key words my mic has picked up is are bit extra though.’
‘Okay so I don’t mind it when ads are targeted on browsing history. That can actually be useful. But the ones that have your name in them? Nah. That scares me.’
‘I don’t like any ads, targeted or otherwise. It’s nothing personal against companies, I just don’t find them terribly useful for me.’
Though undoubtedly an interesting insight, it is important to note that this sample is not representative of all demographics within the population. The majority of the participants of this survey were young people i.e. between age 18 – 25 and so these opinions provide perhaps a one-sided view.
A total of 146 people answered this question.
The second question I asked was to gain an understanding as to the level of awareness that there is within the population regarding measures that can be taken to implement security settings. This includes things such as disabling targeting advertising, and I found that a surprisingly large proportion of the people who voted (55%) were not aware of ways they could disable tracking. This suggests to me that there is perhaps a need to educate people about keeping their data safe, and ensuring they have control over it. Companies could also be more transparent about the data that they collect; however in most cases, this information is out there, just hard enough to access that the typical consumer would not go out of their way to find out. And of course, there is the possibility that some consumers are simply not too concerned about the data that is being collected about them.