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Targeted Online Advertising

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Ryerson University




This report investigates the emerging field of targeted online advertising from the experiences of two different sets of stakeholders: advertisers who want to reach consumers, and consumers who may or may not be receptive to receiving advertising messages. The research was conducted from both stakeholders’ perspectives, including those of the marketer who is trying to find more effective promotion mechanisms, and those of the privacy advocate who is concerned about the potential harm of technologically-enabled targeting. Privacy does not appear to be a major concern among business respondents because they believe they are already compliant.

As technology is evolving and capabilities and applications are developing, the attitudes and behaviours of consumers do not necessarily present a coherent picture. Consumers purport to ignore and dislike all forms of advertisement, yet a proportion report clicking on online advertisements. Additionally, many respondents believe that ads are a fact of life and something they are willing to endure to get free content on the Internet. Another contradiction is seen in their views toward privacy. They firmly believe that privacy is a right and they disagree with the collection of personal information by companies through monitoring of their internet habits. However, knowing that they are being tracked, most still would not change their online behaviour or avoid websites that do tracking. Although users don’t like their privacy being invaded, they seem unwilling to change their behaviour to protect their privacy. Participants expect the OPC to protect their privacy, and carry perhaps an unrealistic understanding of the Office’s enforcement powers.

This document is available in the following language(s):

English only

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

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