Seeing Privacy Through a ‘PRISM’

WASHINGTON — A second-quarter study by Omnicom Group that intended to look at consumer attitudes toward online privacy was extended into July and refocused on responses to revelations about the National Security Agency’s PRISM program for tracking online behavior.

The study found that the number of people concerned or very concerned about online privacy rose to 57% in July, after the NSA story broke, from 20% in June.

Other findings.  by the numbers:

• 38: The percentage of respondents in the Q2 poll who said they adjusted their browser settings, vs. only  22% in a similar Q1 poll;

• 23: The percentage of people who said they had opted out of mobile tracking;

• 48: The percentage of people who said they don’t know enough about how their info is collected and used; and

• 61: The percentage of respondents who don’t feel they have control over how their personal information is used.

 The study suggests that lack of control may be tied to lack of info. “Additional steps to educate consumers about data practices may go a long way in making Internet users feel more in control around how their data is used,” the study said.

Omnicom pointed out that the numbers should be of concern to online advertisers and publishers. “Users that describe themselves as concerned about the privacy of their online information are nearly twice as likely as those who describe themselves as not concerned (31% vs. 18%) to take action in response to these concerns, such as opting out of targeted advertising and/or deleting or blocking cookies on their computers and mobile devices,” Omnicom noted. Even those who said they were unconcerned have have also taken such steps: More than a quarter of those respondents (27%) said they had moved to protect their data privacy.

 “If these trends continue, and Mozilla implements its plan for its Firefox browser to block most third-party cookies by default later this year,” Omnicom said, “ the ad industry’s ability to effectively use third-party cookies for marketing purposes will decrease. This, in turn, may necessitate the need for the industry to develop other means to quantify digital business practices.”

Omnicom’s Q2 study was conducted by its research company, Annalect Group, with a combined sample of 2,100 adults, age 18-plus, who use the Internet at least once a month.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.