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Should Google’s New Privacy Erosion Chill You to the Bone?

It’s October, the month for all things spooky, but this next story may be doing you more of a frighten than you were prepared for. So turn on all the lights and hide under the blanket for this bombshell: Google no longer prevents your personal browsing information from crossing into their DoubleClick ad network data.

If Chrome or Google Account users opted-in to a request this summer for “Some new features for your Google account,” then they just gave Google permission to give their personal data — including name, address, browsing history and other gems it could have gleaned like estimated income — to their ad network partners.

With this information, those ads that stalk you around the web using your browsing history just may also know your full name or even what your house looks like. That level of spookification would be enough to send Jason Voorhees swan diving back into Crystal Lake.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the company also recently received a patent for “advertising based on environmental conditions,” which could allow Google to commandeer your microphone in order to serve you targeted ads. Suddenly, their pledge “don’t be evil” seems less ironic and more like something we pray they hold to as they gain and share more and more access to our supposedly private data.

One, Two, Google’s Coming for You…

Between our Chrome browsing history, search usage data and all the bits and pieces it picks up from our online activities, Google just may know more about us than we know about ourselves.

Previously, their privacy statement delineated a clear boundary between that sort of data tracking and the data it used to help target ads. The technology that enables an ad to detect previous browsing activity and correlate it to a relevant ad had to work via IP-tracking cookies and pixels.

So, when you visited the Torgo’s Executive Powder product website and decided “Meh, I’ll pass,” Torgo’s could still know you visited. Then, through the power of DoubleClick media buying and identification software, they can serve up an ad for Torgo’s Executive Powder no matter where you go online, like some sort of marketing-driven Terminator.

That Terminator just got amped up to the next level, imbued with the powers to take all the data once kept walled-off from the DoubleClick network and use it with impunity. Businesses of all sizes could potentially benefit from the program, but as privacy suffers, the backlash could be tremendous.

…And It’s Always Listening

Perhaps the more frightening but definitely the more hypothetical horror story at work is Google’s environment-based advertising concept. Sure, the technology mostly extends to reading a mobile phone user’s weather data by area and serving up ads for related gear, such as parkas for cold weather, but many worry about a particular feature Google suggested alongside it.

The patent states that the concept extends to the following functionality: “An audio signal that includes a voice instruction from a user of the remote device can be received, and the environmental condition can be determined based on background sounds in the audio signal.” In other words, when you say “Ok, Google,” and the microphone also picks up that you are listening to the new Lady Gaga album, it can use that background noise to help form better-targeted ads.

Soon, that joke on Futurama about Farnsworth’s internet browser hearing them say “Fry” and ordering him french fries while opening his calendar to Friday won’t seem so far-fetched.

Navigating the Complex World of Privacy and Digital Marketing

Businesses interested in optimizing their use of online-based digital marketing using data will have to tread a careful line in the near future as options open up for them. Ad technologies like those mentioned above do mostly require user opt-ins, but many users miscalculate exactly what they will be opting into, inviting the potential for remorse and backlash.

EverSpark Interactive doesn’t proclaim to be online ethics experts, but we do know how to read audiences and cater to their need for privacy and relevancy simultaneously. Let us help you tread the thin line, taking advantage of opportunities without going too far. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to get started today.