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Thanks to digital technology, advertisers and companies collect more information from consumers today than ever before. And while many individuals worry about revealing personal data, this doesn't stop them from spending hours on the internet or their mobile phones, shopping at online retailers or posting details of their activities on social media.
Since 2007, Publicis has canvassed the attitudes of consumers in France to digital data collection in a series of reports titled "Le Baromètre de l'Intrusion." This year saw the fifth edition of the study, conducted by Toluna on behalf of Publicis ETO. A representative panel of web users ages 18 and older completed an online survey in January 2015.
Overall, internet users in France were sensitive to potential privacy issues. When they were asked, "Does it disturb you that numerous digital files contain all kinds of information about every person in France?" nearly 29% said they were very disturbed by this fact, and a further 48.9% said they were troubled to some extent. Only 5% of those polled said it didn't bother them at all.
Respondents were also troubled by how much brands and advertisers knew about them personally, and used to target them. Some 61.5% said that they felt brands intruded into their private life to a high or very high degree.
On the other hand, most of those polled were content to receive communications from brands or suppliers they had already bought from. Mail addressed to them by name was the most popular approach, cited by 34.7%, but brand email was not far behind, with 33.8%. SMS alerts sent to a smartphone were the least popular; just 2.6% said this was the way they preferred brands to communicate with them.
In addition, consumers were clearly open to sharing their personal information in return for specific advantages. More than one-third said that if they had made a purchase, they'd be content to give information that enabled an advertiser to provide services associated with that purchase. Similarly, 32.5% said they would divulge details if they received a discount or promotional offer in exchange, and 22.9% said they would do so to receive a gift.
But most consumers drew the line at providing more sensitive information. Generally, respondents were most likely to share their leisure-time interests, their date of birth and the area they lived in. By contrast, a large majority were unhappy to let brands know what possessions they owned, their salary and how much money they had in the bank.
Most web users also welcomed the notion of proactively monitoring their own data and its use by third parties. When researchers asked, "Would you be interested in managing the access brands have to your data via software, a smartphone app or a dedicated website?", 76.1% of respondents said yes.
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