Survey: Millennials Don't Like Trading Data for Relevant Ads

A new privacy survey puts an exclamation point on the need for a "single, comprehensive" federal privacy law, and reveals a troubling stat for advertisers and the future of free online content.

That is according to the Internet Innovation Alliance, which released a survey and accompanying white paper that showed that a majority of millennials as well as older Americans are concerned about their financial and other personal information and about how it is being safeguarded, or not.

The Millennial Action Project, Icon Talks and the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) joined with IIA to commission the survey.

The survey found that three-quarters (74%) of U.S. adults are worried about their data being hacked and, in a worrisome finding for advertisers, 75% don't favor their online data being used to make advertising more relevant. Targeted advertising and the data that makes that possible is essentially the business model for free online content.

The survey found that 72% favor a single nationwide online privacy law.

As for the general assumption that millennials are willing to trade their privacy for a free pizza coupon, the study found that that age groups tracks pretty closely with their elders.

“It’s been assumed by some that millennials are okay with the unrestrained online collection and use of their data, because they grew up with the internet,” said honorary chairman of IIA and former chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee Rick Boucher. “These data show otherwise: The views of Millennials are remarkably aligned with older adults on data privacy issues. Americans of all ages want Congress to act by crafting a single, nationwide framework for safeguarding their online personal information.”

Two thirds (67%) said they were worried about their personal financial information being hacked from the social media sites they visit; 69% said they were not okay with their data being collected "even if it makes online searches, advertisements and content more relevant"; and 74% say they are concerned with how tech companies use online info and location information. .

A solid majority (64%) also favor a single law, though that is less than the 75% in the 35-54 age group and the 77% 55-plus.

The survey was a "random quota-based sample" of at least 8,000 online U.S. adults 18 and older. The margin off error was less than one percentage point. 

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.