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Maybe Consumers Don't Care About Do Not Track After All

Jules Polonetsky, founder of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank, disclosed the surprising news that less than 1% of Firefox 4 users have adopted the Do Not Track option. Polonetsky came up with that figure by doing his own number crunching based on data from two ad networks that he didn’t name, PaidContent.org reports.

It is possible that consumers don't realize the feature is available - or perhaps feel it is a waste of time. PaidContent also notes that no major ad networks are responding to DNT other than monitoring how many times the signal hits their ad server.

Another possibility: could consumers not care as much as privacy advocates and Congress about all this? Possibly, if a Washington Post blog is any guide to conventional sentiment. The post, which pooh pooh’ed the furor over the smartphone tracking issue notes that most people want to be catered to by retailers - and that usually means the retailer must know the consumer and his or her likes and dislikes.

A study released last year by PreferenceCentral suggests the blogger might be correct: It found that internet users do prefer targeted online ads. However the right context is necessary - they will likely opt for targeted advertising when asked to make real-world, value-for-value trade-offs, such as free access to Internet content. The research also found that attitudes and preferences significantly shift when consumers educated about behavioral targeting or when they are offered ways to control their exposure to these ads.

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