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Privacy, Data, and Consent: Consumer Attitudes



How do consumers feel about how their personal data is managed online?

Privacy concerns are higher than ever before. Consumers are no longer willing to give up their confidential information and habits without an equitable value exchange. Transparency is necessary for companies to gain consumer trust, and rightly so. 

Consumers don't want to feel exploited even if they still want personalized ads. Finding the right balance is a difficult challenge for marketers, however, as an ANA event recap of an R3 presentation noted that "a study by McKinsey found that 42 percent of people still don't believe companies use their data responsibly. Further complicating the issue, consumers want to have their cake and eat it, too, with nearly half of all consumers feeling uncomfortable sharing their personal data, while two-thirds still expect to receive personalized ads. This tension has created an environment in which marketers are finding it more difficult than ever to leverage consumer data to execute effective marketing campaigns. And the trend only stands to worsen."

As the market moves into new and/or changing territory when it comes to tracking, contextual targeting can become a new approach. Jeff Ragovin, president of Fyllo, wrote in an ANA article that "contextual targeting leverages sophisticated algorithms to identify contextual signals across the web," creating a broader and richer consumer journey.

Fyllo described a successful case study where Fyllo worked with a global supplier of furniture and housewares "aimed to reach a home improvement audience with a special focus on fathers. We created a bespoke model for the semantic audiences as a proxy to identify the pages where the seed audience, and others like them, are most likely to be online. With that, the retailer was able to build audiences and data-driven contextual strategies based on shared user behavior that drove impressive results."

Below are resources to help give insight on consumer attitudes. Don't forget to check out our guide on Privacy Trends & Regulations and ANA's Privacy, Advocacy, and Self-Regulation hub.


  • Most U.S. Adults Will Turn Off Cookies to Manage Privacy Online. eMarketer, January 2024.
    67 percent of U.S. adults turn off cookies or website tracking to protect their privacy, putting it second only to changing social media privacy settings, according to a May 2023 Pew Research Center survey. This data is particularly relevant as cookies are being phased out. The start of 2024 marked the deprecation of third-party cookies for 1 percent of Google Chrome users, with cookies scheduled to go away completely by the end of the year. As third-party cookies fade, advertisers need to find ways to reach users without making them feel violated online, like incentivizing users to share first-party data.

  • Generation Privacy: Young Consumers are Leading the Way. Cisco, October 2023.
    During the past five years, consumers – especially younger consumers, roughly those in their 20s and 30s – have become more aware of privacy laws governing the use of their personal information. Today, they are playing a greater role in ensuring their information remains safe. Under many privacy laws, consumers have the right to ask about the data organizations collect about them, and many are doing so. They are not only inquiring about their data but are also switching providers over privacy practices. If organizations are not transparent about how they use customers' personal data or how they make data-driven decisions, consumers more willingly take action to protect their data and themselves.

    This report, Cisco's fifth annual review of consumer privacy, explores current privacy trends, challenges, and opportunities for consumers. Cisco surveyed 2,600 adults in 12 countries and participants were asked about their attitudes and activities regarding companies' use of personal data, and awareness and reaction to privacy legislation, artificial intelligence (AI), and data localization requirements. The findings from this research demonstrate the growing importance of consumer privacy and highlight what this means for the businesses and governments that serve them. Sample finding:

  • Data Privacy and Security Worries are on the Rise, While Trust Is Down. Deloitte, September 2023.
    Consumers are increasingly concerned about being "hacked and tracked" through their tech devices. Nearly six in 10 respondents to Deloitte's survey worry that their devices are vulnerable to security breaches (for example, hackers stealing personal data), and the same number are concerned that organizations or people could track them through their devices. The concerns are elevated considerably from what they found in their 2022 survey.

    Sixty-seven percent of smartphone users worry about data security and privacy on their phones, and 62 percent of smart home users worry about the same on their smart home devices — up 13 and 10 percentage points, respectively, from 2022. A majority (52 percent) of smart home users are concerned about the possibility that someone could control their smart home devices (for instance, hackers breaking into smart locks). Almost half (48 percent) of smartwatch/fitness tracker users are concerned about data security and privacy on those devices — a jump of 8 percentage points from 2022. Location tracking is a significant concern, too: More than six in 10 respondents worry that their movements or behavior could be tracked through their smartphones or smart home devices, and half worry about location tracking through their smartwatches or fitness trackers. Other findings:


  • Consumer Data Privacy Concerns Don't Reflect Their Actions. Razorfish, March 2023.
    Brought on by a significant increase in awareness regarding data privacy, Razorfish released a research study that aims to better understand consumer attitudes. The study, titled The Data Privacy Paradox, focuses on uncovering how brands can learn from those attitudes to walk the fine line between respecting boundaries and creating personalized experiences which add value to consumers' lives.

    "With a mission of connecting brand purpose to business performance, this study showcases how people want personalized experiences without putting their data at risk. But we've learned that the tradeoff creates a bit of a paradox," said Eddie Gonzalez, Chief Strategy Officer, Performance & Experience at Razorfish. "Though consumers are wary of data-sharing, they're still expecting authentic and personalized content that shows their favorite brands care about, and listen to, their audiences in a safe, transparent way." Sample finding:

  • Customers Want Control Over Their Data — and Won't Hesitate to Switch Brands to Get It. ANA/Think with Google, February 2023.
    Improving online privacy is one of the most important steps marketers can take to boost their brand preference and ensure that nearly half their customers don't switch to another brand. Research from Google and Ipsos reveals that a remarkable 49% of participants said a positive privacy experience with their second-choice brand would lead them to switch from their first-choice brand.

    The study, involving 16,000 people across Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., also revealed how much a negative privacy experience can damage both trust and brand preference. As one research participant from Canada said, "I truly want to know exactly what you are doing with my information. Just be straightforward and use plain English." These findings highlight the importance of giving customers a feeling of control over their information — and show how to deliver positive privacy experiences that deliver this feeling effectively.

  • Americans Don't Understand What Companies Can Do with Their Personal Data — and That's a Problem. University of Pennsylvania, February 2023.
    Researchers asked a nationally representative group of more than 2,000 Americans to answer a set of questions about digital marketing policies and how companies can and should use their personal data. Their aim was to determine if current "informed consent" practices are working online. They found that the great majority of Americans don't understand the fundamentals of internet marketing practices and policies, and that many feel incapable of consenting to how companies use their data. As a result, the researchers say, Americans can't truly give informed consent to digital data collection.

    The survey revealed that 56 percent of American adults don't understand the term "privacy policy," often believing it means that a company won't share their data with third parties without permission. In fact, many of these policies state that a company can share or sell any data it gathers about site visitors with other websites or companies. Perhaps because so many Americans feel that internet privacy feels impossible to comprehend — with "opting-out" or "opting-in," biometrics, and VPNs — they don't trust what is being done with their digital data. Eighty percent of Americans believe that what companies know about them can cause them harm.

  • Consumer Data Trust Index. ANA/Jebbit, August 2022.
    Jebbit shared data on how data-collection practices and other trends are influencing consumers trust in different business sectors, as well as in specific brands. Some of the specific areas explored included the following:
    • Consumer attitudes toward practices designed to protect their data privacy.
    • Consumers' trust in traditional brands versus D2C brands.
    • Consumer attitudes toward different uses of their data.
    • Detailed rankings of the relative trust that consumers place in specific brands.
  • Privacy and the Consumer: A Market Research Overview. ANA, October 2021.
    The ANA, recognizing the maelstrom of activity currently taking place around data collection, data usage, and privacy, is providing this overview summary covering a large swath of surveys and studies that have been conducted over the past few years, specifically with consumers about their perceptions and attitudes about data and ad targeting.

    The sheer volume of surveys being conducted with consumers globally is a testament to the importance of and investment that the public and private sectors have made in the data economy, but also to the uncertainty about what consumers will or won't tolerate, even if the economic benefits are clear. This paper is an informative summary of the most relevant recent global research on consumer sentiment related to privacy and the use of identity. It provides actionable steps for advertisers to consider as they adjust and plan to do business in today's more privacy-responsible marketplace.

  • Consumer Perspectives on Online Activity Tracking. ANA/Morning Consult, August 2021.
    How can brands develop and maintain relationships with consumers in this new data access environment, what is considered a fair value exchange for leveraging consumers' data, and what types of incentives are most effective? This research focused on consumer perspectives related to online tracking, opt-in vs. opt-out, and the process associated with each of these experiences on iOS. 

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"Privacy, Data, and Consent: Consumer Attitudes." ANA, 2023.