Marketers not a focus of consumer online-privacy fears

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Consumers are as worried about online privacy as they are about terrorism, but marketers tracking their surfing habits or mining their emails is the least of their worries, according to a survey by McCann Truth Central.

The shop, a unit of McCann World Group, combined a 6,525-person quantitative study, conducted in the US and five other markets, with qualitative research from 12 markets for its Truth About Privacy study. The study found much anxiety about the reputational and financial threats posed by tech-driven erosion of personal privacy, but consumers were surprisingly aware and accepting of the use of personal data to serve up targeted ads online. And pharma ranks among the industries respondents trust most to safeguard their personal data and use it wisely.

Globally, 75% of respondents agreed that “people share far too much personal information online.” That sentiment, said McCann, is driven by a realignment of privacy norms based on four forces: technology, the role of social networking in civic life, the rise of the let-it-all-hang-out celebrity culture and “the end of embarrassment.”

“People describe needing to separate the ‘virtuous me' that is suitable for family and employers from the ‘popular me' which we must project to friends and social acquaintances that we seek to impress,” reads the study's executive summary.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they were aware of companies tracking websites and recording personal preferences for marketing purposes. Almost half (44%) knew that free email programs often analyze emails for interest-based advertising.

What consumers want to see on privacy boils down to “Four Cs of Trust,” said McCann— Control over what they share, a Choice on how their data will be used, a Commitment from companies to not pass data on to third parties and Compensation, an understanding of how they will benefit from sharing data.

Over half of respondents (55%) said it's important to them that the company doesn't pass on their data to third parties and that they know how their data is used (51%), while 50% said it's important that they can control which pieces of info they share.
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