Ecommerce professionals gush over targeted ads, claiming they'll make life easier on consumers (I'll never have to look at another picture of a baby dusted with diaper powder--unless I'm in charge of grandchildren someday) and will supercharge advertising campaigns. But shouldn't someone ask the consumers how they feel about giving their personal data to companies?
Forrester Research has. In results quoted by Search Marketing Standard (a magazine for advertisers trying to improve SEO) they found that hardly anyone is "willing to share personal information" in order to "receive more relevant ads." Only 14% of respondents said they would go along with this kind of intrusive monitoring.
People were more willing to share personal information for other reasons that they saw having a direct benefit to them. Half would do it to receive greater discounts, while around 40% would do it to receive fewer ads (I suppose the advertisers could claim that "more relevant" would reduce to "fewer"), to save time, or to receive free content.
Large institutions, whether in the federal government or big business, tend to dismiss protests by the public about monitoring. I think people in positions of power have deduced that few citizens will take to the streets over it, so large institutions are free to exploit monitoring to pursue their goals, whether to harrass political opponents or to provide a more pleasant web surfing experience.
Forrester shows that people are sometimes willing to share data with the companies they deal with, but they want to keep some control and see some benefit.
So the survey population has spoken: the highest item on their agenda is receiving fewer ads. Of course, a lot of small web presences are happy with the money they get from ads, and few big ones earn billions through them. But a more educated public will gradually become less responsive to them over time, and this will eventually have to affect funding for web sites.