Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Consumers are far more likely to hide data on mobile than desktop

Even before third-party cookies are officially scraped on Google’s Chrome browser next year, a significant number of consumers are already taking action to keep their personal data away from brands, particularly on mobile.

According to a survey of 2,036 UK adults commissioned by Nano Interactive, consumers are 58% more likely to mask their data on mobile than desktop, with 37% of consumers less likely to buy from a brand using email or mobile-based cookie alternative IDs.

Moreover, 83% of consumers said they would take action if a brand wasn’t offering the option to opt out of cookies – including anything from researching competitors, to stopping buying from that company completely, to reporting it.

Interestingly, the use of private browsing and VPNs is more prevalent amongst those higher up the income scale, with the highest earning households 69% more likely to use private browsing and 65% more likely to use a VPN than the lowest earning households.

Furthermore, younger audiences are more likely to use private browsing, with 41% of 18-24-year-olds and 39% of 25-34-year-olds using incognito mode, compared to 22% of people aged 55+. And men (40%) are more likely to use VPNs than women (24%).

“The 2024 cookie shutdown is a huge opportunity for advertisers to do things differently. An approach that still aims to understand people’s interests and the motivations behind the purchases they make, but without using IDs or profiling them will win the race,” said Carl White, Nano Interactive CEO. “Whether you consider the direction of legislation, consumer sentiment or enforcement from tech giants, removing people-based data from ad targeting increasingly is the logical, long-term option. For the first time it is now possible to deliver campaign effectiveness and consumer privacy. 

“Advertisers who grasp this opportunity to deliver what our research clearly tells us that their customers demand will surely be the ones who benefit most from the technological advances that the cookie shutdown has precipitated.”

The most common reason given for concealing personal data from brands was to avoid retargeting (49%). The same number of people also mask their data when searching for answers to private or personal questions. Meanwhile, 38% hide their personal data to keep their browsing history private when sharing devices.

High value purchases also play a part in consumers’ decision to mask data, with 24% doing so when making these, and 28% concealing their data when purchasing products or services that may be impacted by dynamic pricing.

One timely, festive concern, for 29% of consumers, is the fear of ads appearing on the devices of loved ones when shopping for presents.

When Nano put to consumers some of the common identity solutions proposed to replace cookies, such as those built upon email addresses or mobile phone numbers, 49% said they would be more likely to hide their personal data when browsing. In addition, 37% said they would be less likely to spend money with brands using their email or mobile number to target ads, with 35% saying this would lower their trust in a company and 19% expecting a discount in return for the use of their data in this case.