Many Americans learned the full extent of how their online choices allow them to be targeted by marketers when news of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data scandal broke. That has caused some changes in how the social network will use the data it collects while also causing some push-back from consumers who want brands to ask for consent by a 2 to 1 margin, according to a new survey Privacy, Personalization, and Promotions (registration required), from Kelton Research and SheerID.

"The survey results underscore the conflict marketers face when using consumer information to personalize offers without explicit buyer consent," according to a press release. "Opinion captured in the survey questions the viability of personalization techniques that rely on third-party data tracking, showing a 2 to 1 preference for opt-in -- or consent-based -- models over traditional inference-based approaches."

People sit on a bench using various devices.

Consumers overwhelmingly prefer to opt-in in order to receive special offers. Image source: Getty Images.

What do consumers want?

Only 8% of American consumers want companies to use their social media likes and behavior to identify them to receive a promotion or special offer. That number rises to 17% when it comes to using choices consumers make on the brand's own website.

"Consumers respond to exclusive offers by spending more and purchasing more frequently, but they also worry about the security of the personal data required to redeem them," according to the report. "Shoppers see brands as a powerful and influential source of information, and -- perhaps in light of recent data breaches -- strongly expect those brands to protect their privacy.

It's a conundrum

The challenge for companies is that the majority of consumers (68%) prefer exclusive offers over traditional coupons that are available to everyone. In fact, nearly every person surveyed (94%) say they would take advantage of an offer provided exclusively to them that was not offered to the general public.

Delivering exclusive offers when consumers don't want their behavior tracked without permission created a challenge for brands to collect what they need to make those types of offers. Still, there are situations where those surveyed were willing to have their personal information used:

  • 13% were willing to have brands track information from social media they provide knowingly (like their birth date).
  • 40% prefer that companies use a submission form on their own website.

"Most of the concerns regarding personal information for eligibility to an offer stem from the worry of what brands will do with the information they collect," according to the survey. The majority of Americans (83%) have concerns over the types of data collected and what it might be used for while 56% are worried about brands using it without their consent.

It's about transparency

Consumers want exclusive offers targeted specifically to them, but they don't want companies secretly tracking their behavior. That creates a problem because it's impossible for a brand to plausibly target offers without having access to personal information.

The clear answer is for brands to ask for any information they use and for them to be very transparent about what they do with data. Over 9 in 10 (92%) of Americans say that knowing their information won't be shared if they redeem an exclusive offer is important to them.

Basically, people don't want to trade control of their personal data for a discount and they are very skeptical of offers that they did not provide info for directly. They may, however, be willing to have that brand send them targeted offers as long as the company is upfront about what it's doing and how it collects data.

Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.