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Survey: Most Americans find targeted online ads annoying, invasive and not helpful

23 December 2021

And they don't trust social media platforms to keep their personal data safe, say government should do more to regulate how companies handle privacy.

A new poll by the Washington Post and the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government finds that Americans widely distrust social media platforms to keep their personal data safe, and overwhelmingly find that targeted online ads - the end-product derived from those personal data - to be annoying, invasive and not helpful.

Key findings:

  • % of survey respondents who said they trust a social media platform "not much or not at all":
    • Facebook 72%
    • Tik Tok 63%
    • Instagram 60%
    • WhatsApp 53%
    • YouTube 53%
  • 56% said Facebook has a negative impact on society.
  • 72% said their phones or other devices very often or somewhat often listen in to them in ways they did not approve.
  • 82% said they find targeted online ads annoying.
  • 74% said they find targeted online ads invasive.
  • 66% said they do not find targeted online ads helpful.
  • 73% said collecting user data for the purpose of targeting ads is "an unjustified use of people's private information."
  • 64% (82% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans) said they think the government should do more to regulate how internet companies handle privacy issues.
  • 56% said they have deleted their web browsing history.

Data were collected 4-22 November 2021 using a mailed survey instrument which a national random sample of 1,122 American adults completed and mailed back or completed online, with a claimed margin of error of 3.5%.

Comment: That's a small sample, for sure, but the percentages are so lopsided it's probably big enough to justify drawing some conclusions:

  • Americans don't trust social media platforms not to misuse their search histories and other personal data.
  • They resent having their personal data used to target them with annoying, invasive, unhelpful ads wherever they go on the internet.
  • They want the government to step up and exert more control over how internet companies use their data.

Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram et al: Are you listening? Do you want the government to help you with ad targeting? Maybe you could change your ways a bit, take a little revenue hit, before politicians legislate something that will put you out of business?

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External Article: https://context-cdn.washingtonpost.com/notes/prod/default/documents/bad5bba7-476c-4c62-af50-89b25ee900db/note/806258bc-ed60-4ef6-a706-b8291639b0a3.#page=1

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