New research from Real Opinions shows that 60% of UAE Internet users favour behavioural targeting for customised advertising and Internet content, whilst 76% said their searches for products and visits to websites should never be monitored unless they have given express permission to do so beforehand.
Dan Healy, the CEO of Real Opinions said “One of the key opportunities for Internet advertisers is to efficiently target their key audience. Our research shows that customers want more sophistication from advertisers in reaching out to them by better understanding what they are looking for online rather than who they are. Take the example of buying an annual holiday. You might only do this once a year but when you do you’d like to see all the deals on offer and not at any other time during the year. This is the key moment for advertisers, it’s the here and now period when customers are making an evaluation and possibly a transaction online right away."
The survey clearly shows that consumers are increasingly attracted to the convenience and relevance that behavioural targeting brings to online content but also have concerns regarding the ways in which data collected about their online habits is being collected. Privacy concerns have resulted in fierce debate in Europe and North America where new legislation is being discussed to protect online privacy and recent communications from both Google and Facebook regarding privacy of Internet users has attracted a great deal of media attention. In particular, Adobe has been addressing concerns about the practice of some organisations using Flash cookies to regenerate HTML cookies (Internet history) that may have been intentionally deleted by Internet users.
UAE based Internet users were surveyed as part of the global 11-country Here & Now study by Real Opinions which sought to ask Internet users for their opinions on the debate of Internet advertising, privacy concerns and preferences.
Of all the global respondents surveyed, the story was similar with 65% saying they prefer to give express permission before searches and visits to websites are monitored. This was particularly so with concern respondents in UAE (76%), South Africa (77%) and Australia (91%) respondents.
"Behavioural advertising promises to help advertisers reach the right consumer with the right message at the right time by gathering data on individuals Internet habits," said Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On Public Relations. "The overall concept is a win-win for advertiser and consumer, providing more effective channels for advertisers and more relevant advertising and content for consumers. However, new behavioural advertising techniques require more monitoring of consumers usage patterns and raise some very real privacy concerns that have become the subject of widespread debate."
The Here & Now survey also found that there are some Internet users that do not accept any trade off between privacy levels and behavioural targeting. When asked about the different options for websites to secure permission for monitoring, 38% of respondents believed that no tracking or monitoring of their online behaviour should be permitted under any circumstances. However, almost 6 in 10 (59% globally and also in the UAE) most preferred the method suggested of a setting in Internet browsers which allows Internet users to set global default levels of privacy rather than on a per website basis. Of note, this was most preferred option by almost 3 in 4 respondents (74%) in India and 67% in China.
“There has been a significant volume of media coverage regarding online privacy and this is an issue that many people have a growing awareness of,” said Healy. “People have learned to become more wary and want more control put in their own hands about what they do and do not share rather than rely on third parties to regulate their levels of privacy.”
Another outcome of the survey was that people were more negative generally about promotions that targeted mobile phones, with 51% of people surveyed in the UAE being against SMS advertising.
The Here & Now survey was conducted online using Real Opinions online panel. Research was conducted from approximately 27th February to 7th March 2010. Respondents were given the choice to complete the survey in either English or their local language. 1,535 respondents overall took part in the survey.
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