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21 March 2019

Ofcom Report Finds Lack Of Public Awareness Around Ad Tech

An Ofcom report has found that the public believe the techniques used to target consumers with advertising online are unacceptable because of the ways in which personal data is used.

Published today, the Adtech Market Research Report found that, while consumers generally accept that free websites will display ads, the public generally believe that only search and browsing history are used in ad targeting.

Just nine per cent knew that cookies could be used to target them with an ad and only eight per cent knew that location, age and personal data could be used. Only six per cent knew that their gender and interests, hobbies and preferences could be used for ad targeting.  

Fifty-six per cent of people feel they have no control over which adverts are shown to them although 54 per cent of people agree that they’d prefer to see ads that are relevant to them.

Nearly nine in ten state that they do not click on the advert preference messages all of the time. Key reasons include not being able to do anything about it and the amount of time it takes. A quarter of those who do click do not understand the explanation provided, the research found.

Respondents deemed that it was unacceptable for their personal data to be shared with advertisers, in particular identifiers of their device such as the model of their phone, operating system and IP address, which all scored above 50 per cent.  

This research was commissioned by the Information Commissioner’s Office in order to understand the public’s awareness and perceptions of how online advertising is served to the public based on their personal data, choices and behaviour.

Increased awareness of the techniques used to target consumers with ads online resulted in more consumers deeming the practice of free websites displaying advertising to be unacceptable. After finding out information about how the adtech process works, just 36 per cent said was acceptable compared to 63 per cent beforehand.