Uh Oh, Time to Talk Privacy Again

By David Levy, Director, Marketing & Business Development

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, I found a certain excerpt to be rather troubling.

A quote from Schmidt: “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions, they want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

Schmidt then goes on to say that because of the data Google has collected about you, it “roughly knows who you are, roughly what you care about and roughly who your friends are.”

I’m not sure how others feel about this, but that kind of thinking makes me very uncomfortable.

Now, I’ve never been one to jump on the privacy bandwagon. To date, I’ve largely felt that there’s a certain price you pay if you want to have ads and other content put in front of you that is relevant. The only way to do this is to share some level of personal information about you. There’s just no way around it.

But, to me, this is going too far.

Apologies Mr. Schmidt, but I actually do want Google to answer my questions. That’s why I Google in the first place. In fact, it could be argued that everyone who searches on Google is ultimately trying to answer a question. For example, let’s say you Google “Chicago sushi restaurant.” You’re probably trying to answer a question like “where should I take my girlfriend for dinner this Friday night?” This is Google being extremely helpful.

I do not want Google to tell me what I should be doing next.

Where are we as a society if we can’t make these kinds of decisions for ourselves? This seems a bit too “Big Brother-ish” to me. I want Google to help me make decisions… not decide for me. The fact that Google is heading down this path is scary. It means that they plan (and need) to collect and use even more personal information in order to make this happen.

Remarketing is scary enough. We’ve all had those display ads follow us wherever we go on the Web. Recently I placed an order at Zappos and now I see all of the shoes I didn’t buy being streamed through a display ad on every site I visit. Granted, this marketing tactic is tremendously successful… but, you have to admit, still a bit scary.

But, Google is going much further here. Imagine Google telling you that you should go to Jamaica on your next vacation because you’ve purchased sandals, a swim suit and some Red Stripe within the past week. These are decisions I want to make… and I want Google to help me, not decide for me. Sure, give me recommendations. Give me reviews. But I don’t want some Google voice following me around everywhere telling me what to do because it has my personal information and some click history.

As a digital marketer, I fully realize the value of personalized messaging to drive relevancy. But, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. What do you think… is Google about to cross it?


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