58% Internet Users Oblivious To Personal Information Invasions

Research reveals that nearly two thirds of people (58 per cent) do not feel comfortable with any of their personal information being tracked and shared by online advertisers. The study, which was conducted by Adblock Plus, further highlights the disconnect between online users and advertisers, as almost all online advertisers track users’ personal information.

The study of over 1,000 respondents within the UK found that only 5 per cent feel comfortable with their search history details specifically being gathered and shared by advertisers – a worrying statistic when we consider that advertisers track this data wherever possible.

Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus, said: “Advertisers have detailed ‘consumer profiles’ on every one of us that doesn’t actively protect our online identity and it is clear to see that online users are not aware of this and the dangers it brings. Online advertisers use the information from your ‘consumer profile’ to target adverts to you and have also been known to personalise pricing as a result too.”

Although public debate around online privacy and tracking has increased – as more Internet users become savvy to the activities going on in the background whilst they are browsing online – the issue is not widespread enough, and many are still unaware of the intrusive dangers online, as clear to see from the findings.

Interestingly, those who live in London are the most suspicious of online tracking, with 68 per cent of Londoners not feeling comfortable with any of their details being tracked and/or shared, 10 per cent more than the national average. “This is perhaps a sign that people are becoming more aware of the worrying nature on online privacy,” said Till. “I hope that this means the rest of the country will follow and begin to understand what they can do to protect themselves.”

Last year’s changes to cookie law saw that Websites now have to state that they use cookies and the user has to agree to this on the Website, through ticking a box normally. However, it is rare that a site will actually describe to the user what cookies are and people are unaware of what they are allowing a website to track by ticking that box in order to continue to use the site. As a result, my company is campaigning for a safer Internet and for users to be better educated on online privacy.

Till concluded: “The EU cookie law is a step in the right direction to a safer online environment for all, but it does not ensure the protection of your online identity. Until stronger guidelines are put in place, which have the public’s interests at heart, rather than organisations and advertisers, it is up to you to ensure that your online privacy is protected. For example, the recent decision by Firefox to block third-party cookies is a step which I absolutely applaud because it is very much in the user’s interest.”

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Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.