Two thirds of Americans Object to Online Tracking. But Why?

A new study has been released called “Americans Reject Tailored Advertising” and it could signal a return to Capitol Hill for marketers.  Eeek.  UPenn Ph.D. Joseph Turow and four others have compiled this telemarketing study, and conclude that majority percentages of Americans are opposed to having the websites they visit track their activities.

In the summary of the study, the authors state “our findings suggest that if Americans could vote on behavioral targeting today, they would shut it down.”

But why?

Why in the world would you object to tailored ANYTHING?  If I walk into a hotel and have a choice between hearing “good morning, sir, we have a room for you,” and “good morning Mr. Ashway, we have a room for you just the way you like it – on an upper floor with a view of the city and close to the elevator,” um, I think I don’t really care how they know that.  Besides, I can always disagree.

Most of the reason we all love the web is BECAUSE it’s tailored.  BECAUSE it’s cookie’d.  That’s why Amazon is so cool:  “Welcome back.  We have recommendations for you.”  That’s why YouTube is so cool:  “Here are some videos you might like.”  If we had to wait for every site to uniquely load every component of the site every time we visited we wouldn’t want to visit anymore.  Besides, we can always disagree, and go with something other than the recommendations.

My best guess is that most Americans are fearful that their information will be misused in some way, and most likely in credit card fraud.  But that’s not the argument here.  Online tracking is not about storing or stealing, it’s about tailoring and timing.  That’s what makes web marketing what it is:  contextualized.  If we remove that, it’s just vagueness and a cacophony of undirected, irrelevant advertising noise. Yuk.

This sounds like horsehockey.  More to come on this study and this topic in the near future.