Is Google’s Privacy Policy Evil?

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Is Google being evil?
Is Google being evil?

Google recently announced their new privacy policy stating that when consumers search or enter information on any Google platform — including within their personal Gmail account, YouTube, Google Maps, etc. – it’s captured for their use. This data can now be used outside of any one particular Google property and on a different Google property. This allows Google to personalize the user’s experience.

A great benefit, but at what cost?


Google is omnipresent

Google’s updated privacy policy informs the consumer that from now on, the data that Google was already collecting can and will be shared with all other Google properties. Previously, if I received a Gmail email about tomato seeds, I might see an ad within Gmail’s web-interface offering me an online retailer of seeds. This customization and personalization was all on the same Google property and was controlled by those who spent the most on ad words.

I fully expect that eventually I will receive an email about tomato seeds and that same day search for directions to my brother-in-law’s house, only to see a map filled with local Burpee seed dealers — paid for by Burpee.

But now, this information about my apparent interest in tomato seeds will be shared with YouTube,, Google Maps, etc. From a technology standpoint, I’m surprised it took this long. Consumer information used for targeting online advertisements is Google’s cash-cow, and it just got much, much larger. Google now is really tracking consumer habits, not spending habits, but really our thinking habits! This is a game changer.


Data is king

Data has always been the game changer, Sean. Walmart relied heavily on data to make themselves a success and make the brands they carry, who have no POS information, rely on them for information. In fact, Walmart still captures and shares data and recently signed a deal with NPD making that data source even stronger. Is Walmart evil? Is Google doing anything different than Walmart by capturing our search queries?

Almost every major retailer, from grocery chains to investment banks to the U.S. Postal Service, has a “predictive analytics” department devoted to understanding not just consumers’ shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them.
How Companies Learn Your Secrets

Influencing at the right time in the consumer decision journey

Email is so personal, as is search, and so capturing this information and sharing it across platforms in order to sell ads to brands seems more intrusive to the consumer. However, to brands and advertisers, it is brilliant. One of the toughest marketing codes to crack is who to target and when. If Kohler knew that a consumer was receiving emails about kitchen construction, then it would be obviously beneficial for them to reach that consumer before she is even considering purchasing appliances. To plant the “tomato” seed, so to speak, Sean.

As a consumer, what if the advertising messages you saw each day actually related to your needs that day? What if this invasive data gathering felt like a benefit? We are slammed with so many messages each day and so many are irrelevant. Might be nice to be reminded of what I need to do today by seeing the right advertising. You can edit your Ads Preferences, but I’m not convinced it is as far along as it could be. In the meantime, I wonder if I would pay for Gmail and other properties not to capture my data. How much is it worth?

What does Google think about you?

Sean Boice Google Ad Preferences

Interested to see what Google Search and Gmail’s Ads Targeting system thinks about you? Tell us if they were deadly accurate or woefully misinformed.


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