Are personalized ads bad?

The main consumer concern with personalized advertising is the actual or perceived invasion of privacy. Personalized advertising is based on advanced software tracking programs that allow third-party advertising platforms to know you based on the web behavior of your Internet protocol or IP address. The vast majority of consumers believe that using their data to personalize ads is unethical. And another 59% believe that personalization to create personalized news feeds, precisely what Facebook, Twitter and other social apps do every day, is unethical.

Like all innovative technologies, targeted advertising can be abused. The current digital market environment has led to a growing demand for user attention. As users gravitate to provocative content, it has become easier than ever to exploit that content to manipulate people. For example, Facebook's policy is that ads cannot target people based on their medical history or have implications for a person's medical condition.

Some industry experts, including Ad Contrarian, believe that personalized ads aren't really more effective. Consumers react badly when personal information is used to generate a recommendation or ad that feels intrusive or inappropriate. For a person who explores their sexuality or gender, for example, ads on the screen of an application or computer can reveal what a person is looking for privately. Bonnie Brennan, regional clinical director at the Center for Food Recovery in Denver, Colorado, says these dangerous reminders or images don't just come from targeted advertising, they can come from anywhere in everyday life.

Although much of the market research focuses on billboard ads, television commercials and radio jingles, they are still essentially limited. The widespread sharing and collection of personal data online has given marketers an unprecedented view of individual consumers, enabling them to deliver solutions precisely geared to each individual's needs. They feel they need to be personalized for an individual, but they also advertise conventional things like marriage, having children, and owning a home. We found that when unacceptable third-party sharing occurred, privacy concerns outweighed people's appreciation for ad personalization.

Control of personal data is increasingly important in today's online world, where lengthy, multi-layered data collection is now common.