Encouraging Data-Driven Policymaking: New Survey Results Reveal Consumer Priorities & Pragmatism

December 19, 2018

Consumers overwhelmingly want Congress to protect ad-supported funding model for free content and services online.

In digital advertising, good data helps drive good decisions. As Congress begins to consider the shape of privacy legislation, we thought it might be useful for the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) to gather some additional data by asking consumers to share their policy priorities (and potential pitfalls) for any federal privacy legislation that may affect responsible data collection and interest-based advertising (IBA).

 

To do so, we conducted a survey of 1,000 American adults in November via SurveyMonkey on a range of privacy and data topics. The feedback we received from consumers through that survey was compelling in its pragmatism, and we hope their responses help to inform some of the dialogue around this important topic.

 

Among the top takeaways from the survey, consumers overwhelmingly want Congress to protect the existing ad-supported funding model for free content and services online, with 81 percent saying it is very or somewhat important for any federal privacy legislation to do so. Consumers also strongly believe any forthcoming legislation also should encourage continued innovation by Internet companies, with 78 percent calling it very or somewhat important.

 

DAA-Commissioned SurveyMonkey Survey of US Consumers re Privacy Legislation - Q3 Results

Source: DAA-Commissioned Survey of 1.059 U.S. Internet Adults, Administered by SurveyMonkey, November 2018.

 

That is not to suggest that consumers don’t have concerns. When asked to identify the most important focus for federal privacy legislation, consumers called out harm and misuse of data rather than the use of data for advertising. The top priority named by respondents was, perhaps not surprisingly given the general pragmatism of the results, actual harm such as financial losses, followed by misuse of personal data for unauthorized purposes, incidental harm caused by a data breach or leak, and data used for things like medical care or credit eligibility. Among responses, the lowest cited priority was conventional use of data for advertising purposes.

 

Similarly, when asked to rank types of potentially sensitive information, consumers prioritized Social Security, financial, children and health information as the most sensitive categories, not the types of data traditionally used for advertising. Respondents said the most sensitive category was Social Security numbers, followed by financial information, children’s information, and health-related information. Interest-based data about which websites and apps a consumer had used was ranked as the least sensitive category of information.

 

When asked which issues they felt were most important for Congress to address in privacy legislation, consumers prioritized criminal behavior such as ID theft and hacking over the use of data for advertising. The top priority for consumers for the legislation to address was identity theft, followed by hacking/data breaches, foreign governments stealing data, U.S. government surveillance, viruses/malware, and online stalking. Use of data for advertising was ranked the least important issue for Congress to address.

 

DAA-Commissioned SurveyMonkey Survey of US Adults re Privacy Legislation - Q6 Results

Source: DAA-Commissioned Survey of 1.059 U.S. Internet Adults, Administered by SurveyMonkey, November 2018.

 

Finally, by more than a 2-1 margin (58 percent to 26 percent), consumers wanted Congress to set a single national standard, rather than allowing states and localities within the Unites States to set their own data standards.

 

The full survey results can be found here. Just as the responsible use of data in advertising has helped unlock myriad new and valuable content and services consumers enjoy, we hope these data are useful waypoints to legislators and policymakers as they consider the most practical path forward on this important consumer issue.

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