Should Marketers Worry About Online Opt-In?

In light of recent online security breaches – including the unresolved shutdown of Sony gaming systems throughout Asia after a recent hack attack – some advocates are pushing harder than ever to protect Web users’ privacy. This includes forcing advertisers to ask for permission before they can implement tracking cookies and other means of gathering and storing personal information.

Despite recent implementation of a similar policy in Europe, American marketers may not have to fear that this type of legislation will come to our shores anytime soon. And that’s because of an effort that’s recently been launched that asks website visitors to voluntarily opt out of info-gathering – and the fact that they’re not using it.

A recent AdAge article shows that an “Ad Option Icon,” which directs those who click on it to ways that they can opt out of information-gathering, is not widely used by those who encounter it. Of those who do follow through on the icon, only 10% complete the steps to turn off tracking and protect their information.

But that may be because they don’t fully understand what’s at risk or how the icon should be used, mistaking it for another ad rather than a helpful tool. With only 60 advertisers currently trying out the icon, it may simply not be familiar enough to set a precedent in terms of reactionary behavior. However, the founder of the Digital Advertising Alliance attests that 300 marketing companies should be signed on soon – spreading the word and increasing the validity of the trials.

Despite concerns that current online ad consumers seem largely dismissive of the opt-out availability, the same audience base may come to use or even expect it once they’re more exposed to the concept. Experts expect that as the trend grows and legislation formalizes to meet it, more and more online advertisers will participate and thereby promote the concept, brand and logo. After all – isn’t that their specialty?

Providing an opt-out option that’s widely used and understood may be beneficial to Internet advertisers in the future, since it may bypass the need for opt-in policies – which would undoubtedly limit marketers’ means of gathering and analyzing traffic and demographic information.

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