According to the New York Times, two thirds of Americans object to online tracking by marketers seeking to provide customized discounts, news, and promotions.
A recent article highlights the findings of a survey by the University of Pennsylvania and Cal Berkeley that phoned consumers to ask their opinions.
Here’s a sample question:
“Please tell me whether or not you want the Web sites you visit to give you discounts that are tailored to your interests.”
I’m a marketer by trade but a consumer at heart, so I can see both sides of the coin. On one hand, it’s kind of creepy knowing the full range of marketers’ capabilities when it comes to online tracking. Putting on my consumer hat for a moment, I enjoy the benefits of special discounts and offers that are designed for me and my interests, not for the masses.
Do as I do, not as I say
Putting my marketer hat back on, I know that what consumers say in a survey is usually very different than what they actually do. The two thirds of web users that oppose personal tracking probably really enjoy receiving and redeeming specialized offers even if they aren’t aware of how they are generated.
Therein lies the rub. Customer tracking is not evil and does not mean that your data will be used against you. However, marketers should provide more “opt out” capabilities for web users that don’t like to be tracked online and make clear the pros and cons of sharing information.
It’s not going away, so we have to find a way to make it mutually beneficial for both parties.
Photo by rpongsaj on Flickr. Thanks!