|Will Google’s behavioral targeting become just as annoying as telemarketers calling at dinnertime?|
I dunno. Lately I’m finding that if I notice that I’m still logged into Google that I rush to sign out. It just creeps me out to know that everywhere I go on the web if I’m signed in, Google is following me.
It reminds me of when Caller ID first came to California in the mid-90s. Paranoia was rampant. I had moved to Palm Springs from Texas where I had Caller ID and and used it to screen telemarketing calls. If it wasn’t a name or number I knew or, if they had their Caller ID blocked, I let it go to voice mail. In fact, it became so obvious that 95% of those blocking Caller ID were trying to sell me something at dinner time, that I set it up so that those who blocked got a message telling them that I didn’t accept calls from blocked numbers. Worked like a charm…
…until I got to California. I was rudely awakened to the fact that 95 per cent of Californians were paranoid about ANYONE seeing their name and number come up on that little screen and they blocked their Caller ID. That meant NONE of them could call me. I had to disable that feature so that I could get any phone calls. Of course, that meant those dinnertime telemarketing calls came pouring back in, too.
That was then. Now, Google’s ability to track what you do and where you go on the web makes Caller ID seem so . . . primitive. Google doesn’t use phone numbers and a screen. It tracks by IP addresses. That’s what their roll out of Personalized Search was all about. When you are logged into your Google account, every stop you make on the web is recorded and can affect what you see when you run searches while logged in. The search results can be based on your search history and be totally different from what those who are not logged in will see.
If the purchase of Doubleclick by Google goes through, the search giant will also be able to track by ad cookies, meaning that they can follow you around the web by info that’s dumped into cookies from sites displaying their graphic ads.
Picture this possible scenario. You are shopping online for something, say penny loafers. You go to several sites, browse around, click on a banner add or two, but don’t find what you want and move on to something else. As you work your way around the web, you start noticing ads for shoes showing up on every web site you go to. You open your e-mail and find advertisements for shoes and penny loafers there, too. Your mobile phone chirps and you find a text message advertising penny loafers on sale.
Google’s version of telemarketers calling at dinnertime?
And here’s the really creepy part. Currently, Google can follow you only if you are logged into your Google account to use any of their services like Gmail or Google Reader. If Google buys Doubleclick, you won’t need to be logged in. Google will find you through any of the sites you visit with their cookie-dropping banner ads.
Yes, you could disable cookies, but then you’d be in the same boat I was in with Caller ID. Your ability to “call” on other web sites would be seriously hampered.
Don’t get me wrong. Google doesn’t need Doubleclick to do behavioral tracking. It can do a really thorough job by itself. Owning Doubleclick is just icing on the cake and keeps Google from coming up with that particular technology on its own.
So, if you are using Gmail, Google Reader, Google Docs or any of the free services offered by Google, you are being tracked. Love all those stats that you get with Google Analytics? Guess what? Google knows more about your site traffic than you do.
Even creepier is the fact that most web surfers are completely unaware that their movements are being harvested for marketing purposes. As search marketers, this is old news to us, but average Joe or Jane Surfer hasn’t got a clue. And, since they don’t know, they don’t care, at least for now.
At what point will the citizens of this planet decide that privacy is more important than free e-mail? It’s bound to happen. It’s just a matter of time.
And then there are those Google Street View trucks going around major cities taking pictures of anyone and everyone without permission. But, that’s another story.