In the evolving online landscape of online experiences, user preferences and digital interactions, one constant remains—privacy. Even for those navigating the ad-filtering realm, where the focus is on tailored ad experiences, privacy continues to play a pivotal role.
In this post, we delve into insights gained from a collaborative survey with GlobalWebIndex (GWI), examining the perspectives of 491 ad-filtering users from the US and Germany. As we explored questions around privacy behaviors, awareness of ad-blocking impacts and online frustrations, a resounding theme emerged: privacy remains a top concern for ad-filtering users.
What do their privacy behaviors look like?
Our survey showed that more than 83% of ad-filtering users in the US and Germany (n=491) regularly or occasionally clear their browsing history/cache AND also regularly or occasionally decline cookies. Notably, 32% have yet to explore the realm of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), 25% have never used the opt-out settings and 27% have never used a cookie blocker.
Note that our survey specifically targeted desktop ad blockers, ensuring responses from active ad-blocking users. Users who no longer or never block ads were screened out.
Awareness of the impact of ad blocking
While ad-filtering users demonstrate awareness of certain impacts of ad blocking, the survey revealed that there's still room for user education.
A significant 87% are cognizant that some websites prompt users to turn off their ad blockers. However, only 53% are aware that website owners may not get paid for their content when ad blockers are in play. An even smaller fraction (32%) recognize that widespread ad-blocker use could lead to an influx of sponsored content, overshadowing independent content.
Interestingly, awareness is lowest regarding the environmental impact, with only 18% believing that ad blockers can reduce carbon emissions.
Privacy and the deluge of notifications now trump online ads as the primary frustrations for ad-filtering users. The survey reveals that frustration over data sharing and compromised privacy (33%), and the flood of online notifications (30%) now surpasses concerns about online ads (22%).
What it means to be private online
When it comes to privacy, consent takes center stage. A significant 66% agreed that privacy for them means that data is neither collected nor shared without explicit consent. On the other hand, only 43% define online privacy as avoiding targeted advertisements.
Uncertainty about what data is collected
Even though a majority of ad-filtering users want to control whether their data is collected, there’s uncertainty about specifically what data is collected in the first place.
52% feel they have only a general understanding of what data is collected about them online
Less than 5% believe they know exactly what data is collected
27% are unsure about what data is collected
The vast majority is taking steps to protect privacy
Ad-filtering users aren’t just saying they’re concerned about privacy –– almost all (96%) are taking some action to protect it. Again, keeping their location private and controlling third-party trackers, like cookies, are both main themes.
62% decline requests to share location
59% regularly clear cookies/browser history
55% decline non-essential cookies
Only 48% are using privacy software, leaving a huge opportunity for growth in this field.
As we navigate the nuances of ad filtering, our survey with GWI paints a clear picture—privacy remains a cornerstone for users who are actively using ad-blocking and ad-filtering software. Whether through conscious privacy behaviors, a growing awareness of ad-blocking impacts, or the persistent frustration over data sharing and notifications, the user's pursuit of a private and personalized online experience truly stands out.
Users want control over their data but for them to truly consent, they must have more understanding of what data is being collected and how it is being used. The fact that the overwhelming majority are taking steps to protect their privacy but are not necessarily using privacy software yet shows that there is untapped potential to give users what they need to have both personalization and privacy.
Understanding these dynamics not only informs our present understanding but also hints at the evolving landscape where privacy will continue to shape user preferences and interactions online.
If you’re interested in learning more about ad-filtering, download the 2023 eyeo Ad-Filtering Report, filled with current trends in the ad-filtering landscape, including research on users and their attitudes toward online advertising and more.
From their panel of over 22m consumers, GWI recontacted 1,000 GWI Core respondents from the USA and Germany who use ad blockers on their PC/Laptop. The data reflected in this blog are from 491 ad-filtering users who participated in the survey. The quantitative research study was fielded as an online survey and took place in August 2023. The recontact methodology enables GWI to synchronize the survey data with its core data of over 57,000 data points. The custom research data is weighted back to GWI Core data by audience definition, market, age and gender to ensure it is representative. Some of the data points are based on response counts smaller than the full sample but are weighted by GWI to represent the real-world population of ad-filtering users.