Google wants to get to know you – more. Although widely critised for their privacy policies, including a stinging rebuke from Privacy International, Google is mounting a PR campaign of epic proportions to convince web surfers, legislators, and the public in general that the world will be a better place by the search giant knowing even more details about our lives.
As as has been reported here previously, Google is currently in negotiations with the FTC and EEC to seek approval for their USD$3.1 billion (yes, that is a lot of money)
purchase of online advertising agency DoubleClick. Their strategy is simple. Google already dominates the search advertising market with their USD$10.6 billion dollar revenue stream continuing to grow on the back of their highly successful Adsense advertising programme – Adsense places advertisements onto web pages based on the page’s content. But as much as that is an ingenious, and clearly lucrative marketing strategy, Google knows little about the interests of web surfers in general. And that’s where the powerplay of the DoubleClick purchase begins. Doubleclick is the master of the online advertising world; there’s hardly a major brand who hasn’t used the company to design an online campaign. And the reason for their success is that they’re clever, very clever. Utilising an intricate system of advertisements, cookies, and other tricks of the trade, DoubleClick can track the movements of web surfers as they travel from site to site. From this tracking, surveillance, and recording, DoubleClick has amassed profiles of consumers to the point where they are now able to deliver tailored web advertising to a web surfer based on their surfing habits. And it is this asset that has Google so interested. By combining there immense power in search, with DoubleClick’s strength in digital advertising, Google will have completed an amazing metamorphosis from garage-incubated hatchling, to online privacy monster in just 10 short years.
Clearly, there are significant concerns about the power Google will have at its disposal, particularly as that power translates into potential breaches of individual privacy. After all, Google/DoubleClick will have the resources, based on the combination of search and browsing history, to predict and influence consumer behaviour in ways never before imagined. And it is these threats that have privacy advocacy groups clambering to be heard, and it is these capabilities that are seeing competitors, such as Yahoo and Microsoft running to the government accusing Google of being variously anti-competitive and a risk to individual privacy.
Google know there’s a lot at stake here. Knowing that better targeted advertising means more effective advertising, and more effective advertising means bigger advertising revenues, Google continues to pursue this deal vigorously. With some pundits expecting them to gain the required approvals for the deal, we could soon find that the “Do No Evil” enterprise knows much more about us than we might expect.