Upcoming changes to Google's privacy policies will make it easier for marketers to target ads based on consumer preferences. Privacy advocates are concerned, but they haven't been able to articulate any good reason why consumers should feel threatened.
Google is taking the information it collects separately on its various services, such as search, Gmail, and Google Maps, and merging it into one big pool of data, which marketers can use to fine-tune messaging and Google can use to make its services more useful.
Google says it will use the information to improve search results, delivering more relevant findings when users search on ambiguous words like "Apple," "Jaguar," or "Pink." Google might use the information to provide a user with a reminder she might be late for a meeting based on location, calendar, and traffic information. And Google might also "ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends' names, are accurate because you've typed them before," Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering, writes on the Google blog.
ZDNet's Christopher Dawson provides examples of how Google might be able to target its marketing, search results, and services. He's recently been looking into buying electric guitars and has been seeing personal ads for those instruments on Google search. Under the new policy, Dawson would see guitar-related apps in suggestions in Google Market and Chrome Marketplace: "Guitarists on Google+ should start appearing in suggested people to add to my circles and Google Reader should offer to download Guitar Player Magazine feeds for me. And, more likely than not, I'll start seeing more guitar-related ads as well."
But wait, there's more: Dawson says Friday night is pizza night for his family, and he uses Google Voice on his Android phone to dial for pizza delivery. Google should use that information to start displaying pizza ads on Google services, and customizing Google Instant to deliver pizza search results as soon as he types a "P" in search. All of this is potentially extremely valuable for marketers. Papa John's and Pizza Hut will fight to show ads to Dawson every Friday. But the changes have the usual privacy advocates' knickers in a twist.
The Washington Post deceptively headlines its story, "Google announces privacy changes across products; users can't opt out." But of course, users can opt out. They can simply quit Google. Moreover, the Post is itself on shaky privacy ground, requiring users to register to read articles. And the Post also provides connectivity to Facebook, including a new Facebook app that sends social network information on every article the user reads on the newspaper site.
I'm not saying that the Post is behaving wrongly in its own privacy policies. I am saying it should climb down off its pedestal. Google's policy change isn't evil. Nobody in this discussion has demonstrated how Google's policies are harmful; instead, they do a lot of hand-waving.
If Google were to deceive consumers, that would be evil. But Google is telling everyone how it will use the information, and notifying users of the changes in the most prominent location possible -- in a notice on Google.com itself, and also in a brief YouTube video:
Many users will have legitimate reasons for being concerned about the new policies, and others will simply dislike the policy for no reason at all (and that's fine, too -- no consumer is required to articulate a reason for not doing business with a company). For those who want to opt out, Google is giving people an opportunity to quit Google, and giving them plenty of time to do it. Google even has instructions on its Website on how to cancel accounts. That's not evil. It's just business.
What do you think of Google's new privacy policies? How will they help or hurt marketing? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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I tend to think that us folks in the Northeast are (at least stereotypically) less prone to friendliness than our southern and western counterparts because we're so used to biting back chilly winds, replete with snow, hail, and freezing rain, that it's affected our general facial expressions and, by extension, moods and outlooks.
Joe, - It will sure start out innacurate but once they begin synchronizing all your emails and all your data including when geolocation services indicate that your are in some place where only lawyers hang out, they will soon figure out your're a lawyer and begin sending you clients for a commission instead...:P
From a user's perspective, having relevance in search results and marketing is beneficial and doesn't harm as long as the information is kept private. The best thing about google is its integration of services and if the inter-connectivity helps in targetting the user's interests, then why not?
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