A new university study, “Americans Object to Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It,” may spark legislation that makes it much more difficult for Web marketers to track users’ behavior online and deliver ads that are targeted to their tastes. Despite questions devised by professors from the University of California at Berkley and the University of Pennsylvania that might be persuasive – for example, “Please tell me whether or not you want the Web sites you visit to give you discounts that are tailored to your interests” – the vast majority of respondents from all age groups disapproved of having their activities tracked online.
However, significantly fewer respondents from the 18-24 year-old category disapproved of tailored ads. The study may be fodder for legislators seeking regulations that would increase consumer privacy online. According to the New York Times, the FTC has signaled that they would be examining privacy issues closely, and Representative Rick Boucher (Democrat, Virginia) has stated his intent to introduce legislation that would limit marketers’ abilities.
Tighter regulations on traditional Web marketing may bolster the value and need for search engine marketing. Both paid search and search engine optimization techniques offer the unique opportunity to match a customers’ interests in any given moment with an exact results. Unless a user is logged in (triggering personalized search results), ads are only tailored to what a user voluntarily inputs into a search engine at that moment.