Google in data collection hot water

Google’s data collection antics have finally landed it in hot legal water. As reported by The Telegraph on 16th January:

“The High Court ruled on Thursday that Google can be sued by a group of Britons over an alleged breach of privacy, despite the company being based in the US and claiming that the case was not serious enough to fall under British jurisdiction.
Google faced a group action by users of Apple’s Safari browser who were angered by the way their online habits were apparently tracked against their wishes in order to provide targeted advertising. But because Google is based in the US they needed to seek the court’s permission to bring the case in the UK, something which the search company claimed was inappropriate.
That claim has now been thrown out, as Mr Justice Tugendhat, sitting at London’s High Court, ruled that the UK courts were the “appropriate jurisdiction” to try the claims. Had the decision gone the other way, the claimants would have had to take their case to the US courts.
“I am satisfied that there is a serious issue to be tried in each of the claimant’s claims for misuse of private information,” he said.”

I bet the Big G is concerned. Brits tend to be more cynical, less forgiving than our US counterparts, and the search engine could find itself in real trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Google. But I think their data collection methods are at best greedy, at worst sinister.

Is it time consumers took control of data collection?

Is it time to change the way search engines collect consumer data? Should internet users own their data and have full control over what’s done with it? Consumer data is commercially valuable stuff. Why should Google be able to gather and use it without paying us a penny? They’re big questions, and it’s about time they were answered.
Putting consumers in charge of their own data would be a revolutionary step. But it could also be the best thing that ever happened to marketing.

Turning marketing on its head – Revolution!

Here’s what happens now. Google collects data about our shopping and surfing habits, which it uses to drive ‘targeted’ advertising and search results. Facebook does the same, as do many others. And you don’t get a penny in return for increasing advertisers’ profits.
Targeting is the marketer’s holy grail. If you can pinpoint the goods and services folk want to buy and put them in front of the right people at the right point in the buying cycle, the world is your oyster. At the moment targeting is a blunt instrument, not much better than informed guesswork. Advertisers might come close now and again. But let’s get real – nobody knows what you want and don’t want better than you.
Imagine how much better advertising and marketing would work if people could choose the kind of ads they were presented with based on their needs, wants and desires? A kind of self-targeting, it might work something like this:

  • you are given a simple, universal yes/no choice about whether or not you want your personal data to be used for advertising and marketing online
  • if you tick the ‘no’ box, nobody collects, messes with or uses your data, not even Google
  • if you tick the ‘yes’ box, you are given a choice of subjects, products and services to opt in or out of, choosing those you’d like to know more about or might eventually want to buy
  • Google pays you for the privilege of knowing what subjects you are and aren’t interested in
  • you re-do your opt in/out and products/services choices annually to keep them current and relevant, and claim a repeat fee

In a scenario like this, which turns marketing on its head by giving us the choice of how our data is or isn’t used, marketers should get much better conversion rates because the people who click through their ads are more likely to buy, having self-targeted by opting in.

What do you think?

If you’ve ever wondered why an internet search for a garden shed results in a flurry of adverts and pop-ups for garden sheds and related stuff, now you know.
Are you happy to let Google collect and use your data without paying a penny for it? Are you OK with advertisers and marketers using your data to make assumptions about your buying habits and interests, or would you rather be in the driving seat?

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