A recent study found that most adolescents understand that their previous online activity, voice data, location information and demographic details form the basis of online targeted advertisements. They found online targeted advertisements based on voice data as more privacy-invasive than those based on their previous online activity.
Researchers at the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä explored adolescents’ awareness of being commercially profiled online and their perspectives on online targeted advertisements. The data for the study consisted of eight focus group discussions (N = 38) conducted between December 2020 and May 2021 with adolescents aged 13 to 16 years in schools across Finland’s capital region.
Adolescents had multiple perspectives on online targeted advertisements. Some participants found targeted advertisements helpful, whereas others found them helpful but also concerning. Some thought that targeted advertisements encourage overconsumption. A few noted that targeted advertisements hinder new perspectives and product choices. There were some participants who found online profiling to be invasive of their privacy because it gave them a feeling of being watched. The participants found it particularly disturbing that voice data was collected without their consent.
“While it cannot be conclusively suggested that corporations use data from previous conversations to profile consumers, it is also important to take adolescents’ concerns seriously,” Doctoral Researcher Sonali Srivastava
emphasises. “Therefore, we urge corporations to make their online data gathering process transparent.”
However, some participants were not disturbed by online profiling. Some considered online data gathering permissible until a certain limit. This suggests that although the participants condemned the collection of voice data, the monitoring of previous online actions was expected or “normal” and, hence, permissible.
“Permissive attitudes can lead to young people getting used to digital commercial surveillance and that they question it less in the future,” says Srivastava. “Adolescents need much more accurate information about the processes of commercial profiling and the ramifications of such practices.”
The study was part of projects DigiConsumers and #Agents – Young People’s Agency in Social Media, funded by the Strategic Research Council and the Academy of Finland
Srivastava, S., Wilska, T. A., & Nyrhinen, J. (2023). Awareness of digital commercial profiling among adolescents in Finland and their perspectives on online targeted advertisements. Journal of Children and Media
, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2023.2257813