Yesterday, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California Berkeley published the results from their survey measuring consumer attitudes toward behavioral advertising. TRUSTe agrees with the researchers that providing individuals with more transparency and control around the use of their information would engender greater trust online.


This most recent survey and TRUSTe’s March 2009 survey on consumer attitudes toward behavioral advertising show that consumers are concerned about privacy and are uncomfortable with online tracking.


Six months ago TRUSTe found that 50.5% of people are uncomfortable with advertisers using their browsing history to serve relevant ads, even when that information cannot be tied to their names or any other personal information.


This newest study reveals even greater discomfort levels, with 66% of respondents indicating that they do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests.


(The recent survey cites TRUSTe’s March 09 survey methodology and results. The two surveys do indeed differ – the TRUSTe/TNS survey uses an online sample – this survey uses a telephone sample of online users. Several questions are asked in different ways, for example, the TRUSTe/TNS survey uses the phrase “browsing history” and this survey uses the phrase “tailoring.” Many researchers in the privacy and security field agree that these concepts are difficult for consumers to fully grasp. Finally, in the last six months there’s been heightened press coverage on this issue that may very well have impacted consumer opinions.)


In addition, this new study shows that privacy practices remain opaque to consumers, as evidenced by the 62 percent of respondents who believe (incorrectly) that the presence of a privacy policy alone on a company’s website means information cannot be shared with another company without expressed consent.

(TRUSTe’s requirements, however, mandate consent for sharing personal identifying information with third parties for marketing or promotional purposes).


TRUSTe is currently developing an advertising practices program for our seal holder publishers to improve disclosures and choices for consumers, in line with the FTC’s Self-Regulatory Principles For Online Behavioral Advertising:

– Deliver enhanced disclosure beyond the privacy statement

– Provide meaningful opt-out options from behavioral advertising

– Improve access to advertising information

– Improve privacy disclosures around targeting and data retention,


In addition, TRUSTe will extend its dispute resolution services to address consumer concerns in this area.


We expect that this new program, like the TRUSTe Web Privacy Seal, will go a long way to improve consumers’ trust online while maintaining the relatively free web content that consumers have clearly embraced.


Our task now is to address behavioral advertising in a way that both protects consumer privacy rights and allows business to thrive and innovate on the Internet. We think it can be done. We’re here to help.