How Google Turned To Behavioral Marketing

06 May 2005

As quoted in my previous post, the online advertising sector represents a roughly estimated total of six billion dollars. That is a lot of money to be played with. Some marketers even estimate the market to top eight billion dollars. Google, as a lead player in the search market, already has a steady position with a generated income of over $1 billion in the last quarter of 2004. As we all have noticed in the media, Google is starting to play other markets too, granting it access to a lot of valuable consumers’ information. Question is : will they resist temptation ?

With the new Accelerator on its way Google has made another move in the direction of its Global Plans, opening new perspectives for ad revenues of (for now) unknown proportions. Whether we like it or not, there’s more Google in our lives than there ever has been before. With the mobile platform, the G-Mail service, Froogle, the toolbar and many other tools together, that leaves this company with a lot of personal data collected from the users of those services.

I’m not concerned about the password policy (yet), and I do think Google does its best to safeguard any user and his privacy, but still… if you look at the direction online advertising is taking, it will become hard for Google not to start using the user data to generate more income or to help ‘targetting’ the ads they want to be display or clicked on.

If you put thing next to each other, you’ll follow my thoughts.

As I’ve quoted in my previous post about Claria :

“BehaviorLink also allows Advertisers to better understand their target audience by analyzing their behavior across the Internet – what sites they are viewing, what competitors they shop, how they respond to your ads, and frequency of purchases to name a few. BehaviorLink’s unique visibility into Web traffic and usage patterns allows for a comprehensive analysis of consumer behavior in many categories. Advertisers can segment consumers on many levels of category usage or brand loyalty in order to deliver ads to consumers who will best respond to them.”

This is based on the tracing of online behaviour through installed software from the Claria affiliates or sub-companies like GAIN. I’m not comparing a company like Claria to Google, I’m just pointing out that Claria makes millions of dollars with information Google now has too. In fact, Google has always had this information; they just ‘never used it’ in this specific field. (I can’t prove it, haven’t read anything about it)

In his topic on Search History Privacy, Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped writes the following :

“Reading the Google Privacy statement you’ll see that Google admits they will share your personally identifying information if they conclude they “are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public.” (Google also says they may share this information with “trusted businesses or persons for the sole purpose of processing personally identifying information on our behalf.”) This privacy statement isn’t new. There are reasons to be concerned, but you should be concerned about your politicians then and the laws they create. Google follows these laws, and if the law turns evil, Google could too.”

Where does Accelerator fit in ? In its efforts to serve you a tool that only loads webpages faster (no data transfers), Google collects some data from you, as they’ve stated on the Web Accelerator’s Help page :

5. How does using Google Web Accelerator affect my privacy?

Google Web Accelerator receives much of the same kind of information you currently send to your ISP when you surf the Web:

  • Google will receive your requests for unencrypted pages (those with “HTTP:”, not “HTTPS:”, at the beginning of the URL), along with information such as the date and time of the request, your IP address, and computer and connection information
  • If you enter personally identifiable information (such as an email address) onto a form on an unencrypted web page, some sites may send this information through Google. Whenever your computer sends cookies with browsing or prefetching page requests for unencrypted sites, we temporarily cache these cookies in order to improve performance
  • In order to speed up the display of pages generally, Google Web Accelerator may store copies of web pages, including prefetched pages that you did not visit, in the Google Web Accelerator cache on your machine. This is separate from your browser’s cache, which only identifies pages that you actually visited.”

Small note on the side : Google says it only collects the data we’re currently already sharing with our ISP’s, and wants to let us assume there’s no harm done. But as Nathan Weinberg replied on a comment in his blog, regarding this topic :

“You mention the telephone company. We regulate them, don’t we? And as for the ISP, since Accelerator is a proxy, Google just cut them out. Now they don’t have access to that data, Google does”

Google has just cut out the ISP’s and is now the sole trustee that has all the data, but says it has no intentions of using it. Despite the billions of dollars other companies are making with the same data.

What the future will bring :

I think Google will try to keep its policy high as long as possible, but eventually, they will evolve in selling particular bits of data to certain marketing companies, who will then target their advertisements to the Google users. I think Google will try to make partnerships with other high-rollers on the market in order to push their applications to a broad public, only to collect more data they say they’ll never use. Yeah Right.

Read Nathan’s post on the Accelerator
Read Google’s Privacy Statement
Read the full article on Google Blogoscoped
Read eCommerceGuide for the figures on Search Engine Marketing

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Posted by Miel Van Opstal in Uncategorized


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