Two thirds object to ad targetting

About two-thirds of Americans object to online tracking by advertisers — and that number rises once they learn the different ways marketers are following their online movements, according to a survey from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California.

They believe the study is the first independent, representative telephone survey on behavioural advertising.

Marketers are arguing that advertising supports free online content. Major advertising trade groups proposed in July some measures that they hoped would fend off regulation, like a clear notice to consumers when they were being tracked.

The data in this area, however, has been largely limited to company-financed research or Internet-based research, which survey experts say they believe is not representative. So the study — among the first independent surveys to examine this issue — has attracted widespread interest.

"This research is going to ignite an intense debate on both sides of the Atlantic on what the appropriate policy should be," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the privacy group Center for Digital Democracy, which did not work on the study.

The study’s authors hired a survey company to conduct interviews with 1,000 adult Internet users.