University of Pennsylvania’s new research paper entitled “The Tradeoff Fallacy” which looks into the misrepresentation of marketing schemes and online advertising initiatives found that the vast majority of web users are strictly against the collection of their personal and financial information, contrary to how online marketing is demonstrated to the public.

Over the past decade, the emergence of innovative and revolutionary social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Qzone have led to the creation of aggressive marketing methods and strategies based on the collection and analysis of highly sensitive user data.

Although marketers, social media platforms, search engines and browsers continue to claim that personal information and financial data are released to advertisers with the consent and agreement of users, most web users claim that they are against such collection of data. In fact, a large portion of users aren’t even aware that their data is being surveilled by marketers.

The first section of the paper read:

“New Annenberg survey results indicate that marketers are misrepresenting a large majority of Americans by claiming that Americans give out information about themselves as a tradeoff for benefits they receive. On the contrary, the survey reveals most Americans do not believe that ‘data for discounts’ is a square deal.”

An interesting aspect of the research led by Joseph Turow, professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, is that the rest of web users who are aware of the mass collection of information feel completely impuissant toward it. Even if users value their privacy and personal data, they often fail to implement necessary methods in order to protect their online identities.

“Resignation occurs when a person believes an undesirable outcome is inevitable and feels powerless to stop it. Rather than feeling able to make choices, Americans believe it is futile to manage what companies can learn about them. Our study reveals that more than half do not want to lose control over their information but also believe this loss of control has already happened,” wrote Turow.

While innovators and technology developers unanimously agree that a cutback on regulations and policies could significantly benefit the technology and financial industries in terms of growth and expansion, regulators continue to introduce tight regulatory frameworks to ensure each aspect of industry are standardized to the market.

If policymakers choose to regulate an industry, they need to obtain a certain level of knowledge to stay in a position wherein they can evaluate the advantages and limitations of particular technologies and their applications.

With that said, it is already widely known that companies like Google and Facebook offer marketers, advertisers and clients with access to their surveillance intelligence platforms which essentially allow marketers to evaluate the habits and routines of users on their networks. If policymakers are willing to regulate the technology and financial industries, they need to look closely into the practices of information companies like Google and the impact they are having on online marketing.

In a more general sense of data tradeoffs, the paper noted:

“If we use a broader definition of a belief in tradeoffs— the average value of all three statements—even then only 21% of the respondents accept the idea. Yet, when we present a real-life tradeoff case— asking Americans whether they would take discounts in exchange for allowing their supermarket to collect information about their grocery purchases —43%, or more than twice as many as in the broader definition of tradeoff supporters, say yes to tradeoffs.”

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