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As Cookies Disappear, Consumer Caution Grows: Adlook's Survey on Email Data Sharing and Privacy Concerns

For many people, privacy is of the utmost importance when browsing online. Users do not want companies harvesting their data, and using it for personalized advertising. So the recent news of Google phasing out third-party cookies for 1% of users, with a plan to completely do away with them by the end of 2024, should be a welcome change that consumers should accept. However, there is still skepticism surrounding what could ultimately replace cookies, as well as alternatives that are already being tested.

To understand consumer perspectives in these changing times, we surveyed over 1,000 U.S. consumers on the eve of these changes, January 3rd, and today, at CES 2024, we’re sharing these critical insights.

Email Address Skepticism

Adlook’s survey revealed 58% are positively influenced in their purchasing decisions by relevant ads. In contrast, 27% report rare influence, and 16% see no impact.

However, skepticism arises when consumers are asked about exchanging email addresses, which are becoming a popular alternative to cookies, for more or better targeted online ads. In fact, half (48%) were not in favor of sharing their emails for more targeted ads, with 30% prioritizing privacy and 18% considering it unlikely yet possible. Meanwhile, 29% expressed a conditional 'maybe’ in sharing email addresses, depending on the ad's value, and 23% agreed for better relevance.

Many in the industry see hashed email as a cookie solution, yet consumers remain  reluctant to trade emails for ads. Email addresses are becoming more difficult to manage given PII concerns, dummy accounts, and beyond. To that end, AI offers a more long-term solution, with a focus on delivering, not just on cookie-less, but identity-less advertising.

In response to whether discounts on products or services would motivate them to provide an email address, 62% showed interest, with 37% conditional on significant discounts and 25% always open to such offers. Meanwhile, 38% showed reluctance, with 22% limiting it to highly valued products only and 16% outright refusing.

Understanding Privacy Policies

When it comes to reading online privacy policies, a combined 71% engage with the policy to some extent, with 51% skimming and 20% reading in full. However, 30% rarely or never review these policies.

Moreover, 75% say they do not understand the terms and conditions when accepting an online privacy policy (28%) or only partially understand (47%). Just 25% claim to “fully” grasp privacy policies.

Many don't fully read privacy policies or simply don’t understand them, so the industry needs to better educate the public about these policies for their benefit in terms of user experience, advertising, and privacy.

Online Tracking Safety

Nearly 60% (59%) believe targeting ads to a "user group" of anonymized individuals with similar characteristics is safer than traditional one-to-one ad targeting, while 27% view it as equally safe and 14% as less safe.

Consumers are signaling a desire to end one-to-one user targeting. Group-based targeting is gaining favor over legacy tracking. Enabling that is difficult however, and AI will need to play a role.

Concerning consent to online tracking, 74% suspect some tracking still occurs even when they opt out. Among them, 42% are somewhat resigned, believing their dissent makes little difference and expecting to be tracked regardless. Only 26% expect no tracking after opting out.

Apathy towards online tracking is clearly high. People expect tracking despite opting out, highlighting the need for less ID-based and more AI-driven, anonymous targeting.

Storing & Deleting Personal Data

In terms of security, 72% feel more secure storing personal data like browsing history and location on their devices with the option to delete it anytime. However, 20% see no difference, and 8% feel less secure with this capability.

Relatedly, the option to delete personal data from company, website, and app databases is considered important by 84% of respondents, with over half (51%) labeling it extremely so. In contrast, only 16% deem it unimportant or somewhat important.

Consumers increasingly want control over their data, including storage and deletion on personal devices, and there’s a good chance that the growing demand for these features as awareness and savviness over data usage rises.

The survey highlights a crucial shift in consumer attitudes towards digital privacy and data sharing. As the cookie-less era looms, consumers show a strong preference for privacy and control over their data. Advertisers and tech companies must navigate this changing landscape, balancing effective targeting with respecting consumer privacy preferences. The challenge ahead is significant, but it offers an opportunity to redefine digital advertising in a more consumer-centric, privacy-aware world.

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