In our recent online shopping survey (n = 11 828) we asked respondents how they would feel if they had bought a TV set from an online retailer, and a few days later the same online retailer was sending them advertising messages for blue Blu-ray players, TV stands and other TV accessories.

We anticipated fairly high levels of paranoia from respondents who we thought would feel that they were being spied on by the online retailer, but that’s not what we found.

46% selected the option “it wouldn’t mean anything to me”. 31% selected the option “I would be impressed that they’re attempting to sell the things to me that they know I’m interested in right now” and only 22% selected the option “I would feel distressed that they are spying on me so that they can exploit me.”

Far fewer people are worried about the idea that Big Brother is watching them than we imagined. This insight begs the question – what is the purpose of POPI? If it’s to protect consumers from their personal details being used by marketers who bombard them with advertising messages then it is a waste of time because most people feel they don’t need or want this protection. Provided marketing messages are relevant to the needs and wants of the consumer, most are quite happy to receive them.