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Digital Content Next


Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

It’s time to align data practices with consumer expectations

April 27, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

From General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations in the Europe Union to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), consumer privacy is a focal point for digital media. These new data privacy and security laws speak to the need to reassess the collection and use of personal information in the digital media ecosystem. Importantly, it is time to review consumer expectations around current online data collection practices.

To better understand consumer expectations with online data collection practices, Digital Content Next (DCN) surveyed a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S. Over the past few years, DCN has also queried consumers to better understand expectations for Google and Facebook, as public examination of tracking by major tech platforms became a critical focus.

Get personal

Overall, consumers expect websites and apps to collect data about them to personalize, protect and improve their experience. In sharp contrast, consumers do not expect outside vendors to collect data about them for reuse or sale.

When consumers are asked specifically about their expectations about the data practices of outside vendors, few are comfortable with the future reuse (38%) or the sales (24%) of their data. Interestingly, when consumers are provided with a clear explanation of how their data will be used and the benefit (i.e. such as collecting online data to identify consumers across devices), their expectations better align with the practice (47%).

Opt out

Understanding there is an option to be tracked shows low awareness. Only half of all U.S. adults (52%) report that they are aware of ways they can choose not to participate in online data collection.

Consumers also report a limited understanding of what it means to “opt out” or how to opt out of online data collection. Fewer consumers stated they opted out of online data collection or will in the next 30 days (40% combined) than those who do not know how to or do not understand what it means to opt out (44% combined).

How to

Unfortunately, the top consumer actions for opting out of online data collection are quite ineffective. Deleting cookies or turning them off often results in turning off both 1st and 3rd party cookies. First-party cookies offer consumers a seamless log-in and authentications process for subscriptions and memberships. Removing these cookies, can actually lead to a frustrating user experience. Regrettably, the “Do Not Track” signal is ignored by many tech companies. Also, consumer use of ad blockers penalizes the entire media ecosystem including the publishers and their advertisers.


As an outcome of opting out of online data collection, most consumers expect more privacy, a better internet experience and enhanced security.

The research findings show the importance of aligning data collection practices with consumer expectations. Consumers do understand the need for websites and apps to collect online data. However, there’s a major disconnect with 3rd parties reusing in the future or selling this data. Importantly, it’s critical to understand what consumers demand, align expectations to those demands to help grow trust in our industry.

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