Internet users seeking more ‘invisibility’—study

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SINGAPORE—Consumer efforts to protect personal data and remain “invisible” online is leading to a “data blackhole” that could adversely impact digital advertisers, technology research firm Ovum said Wednesday.

The move to seek “new tools that allow them to remain ‘invisible’ — untraceable and impossible to target by data means” will impact advertisers who rely on that information to target their audiences, Ovum said.

Surveying consumers in 11 countries around the world, the research firm said 68 percent of respondents said they would select a “do not track” feature if this was easily available.

“This hardening of consumer attitudes, coupled with tightening regulation, could diminish personal data supply lines and have considerable impact on targeted advertising, customer relationship management, big data analytics and other digital industries,” the London-based firm said in a statement.

Mark Little, a principal analyst at Ovum, said Internet users were increasingly getting more access to new tools to “monitor, control and secure their personal data as never before”.

The recent scandal involving privacy breaches by mobile messaging service WhatsApp and lingering concerns over data use policies on Facebook and Google are prompting Internet users to be more guarded, Ovum added.

A joint Canadian-Dutch probe concluded last month that WhatsApp breached privacy laws in at least two countries “mainly in relation to the retention, safeguard, and disclosure of personal data”.

The joint probe found that most mobile smartphone users did not have a choice to use WhatsApp’s messaging app without granting access to their entire address book, in violation of Canadian and Dutch privacy laws.

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