Date of Original Version

4-2-2012

Type

Technical Report

Abstract or Description

We report results of 48 semi-structured interviews about online behavioral advertising (OBA). We investigate non-technical users' attitudes about OBA, then explain these attitudes by delving into users' understanding of its practice. Participants were surprised that their browsing history is currently used to tailor advertisements. They were unable to determine accurately what information is collected during OBA, assuming that advertisers collect more information than they actually do. Participants also misunderstood the role of advertising networks, basing their opinions of an advertising company on that company’s non-advertising activities. Furthermore, participants were unfamiliar with advertising industry icons intended to notify them when ads are behaviorally targeted, often believing that these icons were intended for advertisers, not for users. While many participants felt tailored advertising could benefit them, existing notice and choice mechanisms are not effectively reaching users. Our results suggest new directions both for providing users with effective notice about OBA and for the design of usable privacy tools that help consumers express their preferences about online behavioral advertising.

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