If You Give Google A Cookie

If you give Google a cookie it will probably want to store your search behavior and given the scope of its publishing network….

Something tells me this story does not end happily.

Though this story has been developing for months, the New York Times article on Friday seems to have sparked a deeper look and the issue of privacy has come in to play.

And so it should at this stage. What really needs to be discussed is the establishing of what is allowed to be collected; how it is collected, stored and shared; what would be needed to opt in or out; and consequences of breaches of any limits set.

There seems to be a need to monitor what is being done and the extent our privacy can be invaded – since many times it is the fringe that uses technology to grab a little more than what we want.

The NYT article by Saul Hansell quotes Nick Fox, who – just so NYT knows for the future – is Senior Product Manager for Ads Quality. Nick will have a lot more to measure for Ads Quality if the traffic can be sorted in some quality manner.

As a marketer I would gladly use the information to improve my media buys. But then again we largely do with almost all other media and ours could be more accurate. I am sure the argument distills to Google would be providing the best connection possible between marketer and audience.

The synethesis of the “good user experience” with the “successful marketing effort” may be more than a cyberUtopia. But there are many who see this as the “belly of the beast”.

Given the beta launching of Ad Planner – which Google intends to give away free (guess another industry is in jeopardy) – the depth of knowledge available could be quite large. Marry the cookie with Ad Planner information and the knowledge of our online behavior is soon extensively recorded.

As the Wall Street Journal noted:

“Some ad executives say they are concerned that Google could use the data it compiles about their campaigns to make a business pitch to a competitor. They imagine a scenario in which the biggest online advertiser in a category is running its campaign through Google’s ad-serving systems. Not only would Google be helping that marketer deliver ads to particular Web sites; it would also be capturing data about which Web sites and types of ads work best. Advertising executives fear that Google could then resell that same intelligence to competitors. (Any data that marketers put into Google’s ad systems will remain confidential, a Google spokesman says.)”

Interestingly I have had a presentation from Microsoft that used aggregated industry info and five ‘not named’ competitors’ information. Nothing specific or against rules but enough that I would not want to share. And the advantage of the marketing pioneers is given away to late entries – so why do the exploration, just wait for the report.

Steve Baldwin of Did-It made an interesting comment during OMMA Behavioral 3.0:

“Whenever I read something about Behavioral Targeting, I am reminded of the classic television show, “The Prisoner,” in which the doomed protagonist #6 repeats that he is “not a number, but a free man!” Today, #6 would be protesting (in vain) that he is:

“not a target”
“not a set of behaviors”
“not a source of data”
“not a click”

Of course, no amount of protesting matters because there’s so much money to be made in BT.”

Though there is, as Zachary Rodgers at ClickZ notes, “a loose coalition of Internet watchdogs that have bent their will toward fighting this new breed of comprehensive behavioral targeting.”

Interesting that he was talking about recent legal problems with NebuAd and their attempts to gather behavioral information using ISPs and other access providers. When you have the internet user information available to Google the reach is even greater.

Nick Fox told NYT “Google’s approach was different from what Yahoo, AOL and others call behavioral targeting. Those companies look at what a user did a few days earlier to show them ads about the same topic today. Google says it believes that search engine advertising is most effective if it relates to what the user has most recently searched for.”

But then Larry Page has already told Reuters: “On the more exciting front, you can imagine your brain being augmented by Google. For example you think about something and your cell phone could whisper the answer into your ear.”

Danny Sullivan openly admits he had the implant.

Google has the technology and wants to use it. In the mobile space it is being offered to jump start advertisers apparently. Democratic Media’s Digital Destiny reported:”Google has made presentations to advertisers about its mobile marketing capabilities. It appears that mobile cookies are part of their targeting marketing plan. Google told advertisers that “Google provides mobile conversion tracking on phones that support cookies. Google can measure clicks, impressions and conversions for all campaigns.”

How all this plays out will change the way many things are done. Being aware of the various directions at least has you thinking. Add to the opinions at the forum.

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