Transparency's the New Black

By Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships

Well, folks, it looks like Transparency is back as the buzzword du jour. For those that follow my Search Insider Summit Buzz-o-Meter, you'll recognize Transparency as a mainstay in the Top 10.

I'm quoted in a DMNews piece today by Ellen Keohane talking about what the push for transparency means in the context of recent developments in the industry.

Allow me to elaborate...

There's been a confluence of buzz around the topic of transparency the past few weeks. It started with the launch of Cuil and its much-hyped promise to not collect or store any personal data on its users.

Google quickly responded by rolling out a new feature on SERPs that shows if/how search results are customized for a user (note: "responded" is my choice of words. Google did not mention Cuil in relation to their announcement. But the timing seems uncanny.)

Then the following week brought the launch of Google Insights for Search, a great tool which Mr. Gould discussed yesterday.

So, in the past 2 weeks, you've had Google release 2 new products -- 1 geared towards providing greater transparency for users, the other meant to give greater transparency to marketers. Both big steps forward to, as I put it in the DMNews article, "unbundle the [Google] black box."

But what's really motivating Google's push towards transparency here?

As I relayed to DMNews, one other development in the past week that may tie in here is the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee "expanding its inquiry into potential privacy violations of online advertising that is targeted based on consumers' Web-surfing activities."

Per the Washington Post, "lawmakers have written to 33 telecommunications businesses [including Google] to learn whether, how and when Internet companies might have engaged in such practices. Their aim in part is to determine whether existing laws sufficiently protect consumers' privacy in online behavioral advertising or whether new legislation is needed."

I suspect Google's announcements are part of an attempt to pre-empt any backlash that this investigation might have among end-users who are becoming increasingly suspicious of how companies like Google use their data.

Regardless of its motivation, it's great to see the Big G doing more to become more open about its practices and transparent with the data it's collecting. This will only help ingratiate it the end-user and marketing communities.


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