When it Comes to Google What’s Good to Know May Not Be Good for Me


I thought to go back on a piece we published some time ago about Google’s ad own ad push entitled “Good to Know” from 2012.

At the time they had some snappy ads on the train going into New York City.

One is reproduced below.  It broadcasts the idea that Google is smart on your behalf and can tell the difference between beetles and Volkswagen’s when you enter the search term “bug”.

I was making two points then – one was around privacy.  A cute cartoon and a promise of getting search “right” for you by monitoring all your past searches without your explicit consent is not really enough of an excuse to invade your privacy.  The other point is was technical.  While the example of distinguishing between bug-beetles and bug-Volkswagens is simple and clear, in practice having a machine really understand what you want is far harder than a couple of statistical tricks Google does on the back end.

We got that piece published in Adotas here.

But it looks like Google did not give up on this effort.  In fact they expanded it.  You can see their entire manifesto on their practices and justifications for them here.

There are some things here we can all agree on, like and here I am paraphrasing for effect, “lock you screen when you leave your computer to protect it from prying eyes”.  The irony of course is Google is the prying eyes behind the scene watching and collecting data on everything you do online whether you lock the screen or not.

But there is more.  As Google tells it Imagine having to reintroduce yourself to your friends every time you met them. Your name. Your age. Where you’re from. It would take forever, wouldn’t it? This is why websites, including Google, use tiny crumbs of stored information (called cookies) to remember your previous visits. That way you don’t have to repeat yourself every time you go back.” Nice, they track you without your permission “so you don’t have to repeat yourself”.

And then there is the reminder of the benefit of Google understanding your location.  With the requisite cartoon to put you at ease of course.  It’s called IP sniffing, using your Internet address to look up your location, again without your permission.

Yes it does save some silly mistakes, but it is the default for almost all Internet users.  Again, it is not an explicit opt-in feature of everyday web use, and it should be.

We get worked up over these issues simply because they are not necessary.

Good targeting means starting with the basics, not crossing lines and relying on content and other non-intrusive ways to know your audience.  So serve them well, skip the cartoons and don’t cross any privacy lines.  When you do you earn the respect and loyalty of customers without any slight of hand or expensive campaigns to cover your behind the scenes tracking efforts.

As we said before and is still true, good to know isn’t good for me but it is good for Google.


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