Marketers shouldn't get too alarmed about a Consumer Reports survey finding people "very concerned" about corporate invasions of privacy. The survey is one-sided and not particularly useful in making policy.
According to a post this week on HearUsNow.org, a policy and action Website run by Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), 71 percent of respondents were "'very concerned' about companies selling or sharing information gathered about them without their permission."
Other things that more than half the respondents were very concerned about, according to the survey:
- Smartphone apps accessing contacts, photos, location, or other data on their devices without their permission (65 percent)
- Advertisers targeting kids with personalized ads based on data collected while kids use the Web (58 percent)
- Companies holding on to data even when they don’t need it anymore (56 percent)
- Data about online activities and purchases being used to deny employment or "affect your ability to get a loan" (53 percent)
Respondents also said they were concerned about advertisers targeting them with personalized ads by collecting data online about interests and purchases (44 percent). In addition, "42 percent said they were concerned about privacy policies that were too long and complicated."
Consumers Union submitted the survey results to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in a response to a request for comments on the process to implement the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights released by the White House in February, according to the post.
Privacy is important. And it's no surprise that consumers are concerned about Internet tracking. But the Consumers Union survey is one-sided. It fails to provide information about how lawmakers should craft legislation and policy that accurately reflects what citizens actually want and need.
The biggest thing missing from the survey is what people are willing to give up for privacy.
The Internet is built on services and content available for free to users and supported by advertising. Take Facebook for one example. Are consumers willing to see Facebook shut down, go to a paid-subscription basis, or require consumers to click a privacy agreement every time they post a status update? Don't know. Consumers Union doesn't say.
People are concerned about advertisers targeting them with personalized ads? Why? What bothers them about it? Those ads work. Here, consumer behavior contradicts what people say. Useful policy-making needs to explore that contradiction to find out what's actually going on.
As for the objections to companies holding on to data even when they don't need it, define "need." The same people who say they want companies to dispose of data are supporting regulations that would require companies to retain data. Another contradiction.
The Consumer Reports survey is like a marketing survey that asked consumers about product features without mentioning price. If you ask consumers if they want a sexy sports car that goes 0-60 in five seconds with a top speed of 184mph, they'll say, "Heck, yeah!" But the Aston Martin Rapide costs $215,000. That's why not a lot of people actually buy that car.
What do you think? Are you seeing a privacy pushback in your marketing efforts?
— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, The CMO Site