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RISMEDIA, August 3, 2011—(EMC)—As the online privacy and do-not-track policy debates heat up in the marketing world, a new study from TRUSTe and Harris Interactive has found that a majority of consumers consider online privacy a serious issue, but don’t fully understand all the aspects of online behavioral advertising (OBA).

The lack of understanding about OBA is most likely the primary reason 40 percent of polled consumers believe that websites they’ve registered with have shared their name with advertisers without consent. Forty-three percent believe their current location and 30 percent believe their contact information have also been shared with advertisers.

Even though 32 percent of respondents feel that one in four online advertisements is more relevant to their wants and needs (compared to 12 percent in 2008), 57 percent would likely not allow their online behavior to be monitored. Thirty-seven percent said they’re uncomfortable with the practice, but 42 percent of respondents said they would allow monitoring to combat fraud.

It appears the consumers polled aren’t doing much to stop OBA, as only one in five have downloaded anti-tracking systems. Only 37 percent said they know how to protect their personal information online, and 53 percent said they rarely or never manage their privacy settings to opt out of the practice.

Despite the negative consumer sentiment documented in the study, Fran Maier, president of TRUSTe, remains optimistic. “The survey reveals a tremendous benefit for the advertising community to improve trust by improving privacy practices and embracing the advertising industry icon and standards,” he said in a company press release. “Clear and concise information about how targeted advertising really works, together with accessible choices, substantially alleviates consumer privacy fears.”

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