Thursday, July 12, 2007

Google's privacy conflict

I spent eight hours with four Googlers and an international client on Monday.

Clearly and unfortunately, I can't blog about all the interesting facts that came out of the meeting (like the percentage of people who use iGoogle compared to Google).

This was the Monday that the Postini acquisition was announced. I found myself adding stars to many of the items in Google Reader on my Blackberry. Appropriately, Ionut Alex Chitu's post The Pressure of Google NDA was one of them. Google takes their privacy and NDAs very seriously. We once had a Google Engineer pop into our Edinburgh office while he was on holiday. He had NDA forms with him and so we ended up giving him some feedback (and I still can't say what on). Would you go on vacation with a supply of NDA forms?

I do wonder if Google faces an internal conflict with privacy and use of data.

Where is Google's demographic targeting?

Don't tell me that they can't do it. Of course they can.

Don't tell me that they're still working on it. Google could easily have launched demographic targeting services beyond and above their comScore partnership on site targeting.

I also believe that many account managers in Google want demographic targeting.

These are the account managers who work with agencies or directly with big PPC spenders. Demographic targeting certainly helps target PPC spend more intelligently.

So where it is? I do wonder if Google's internal beliefs on data privacy make it very difficult or even impossible to offer demographic targeting. Do Larry and Sergey believe the tracking required to offer demographic targeting is against Google's ethos?

This would leave Google caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side they're increasingly lambasted for their not-good-enough privacy policies (where 'not-good-enough' is a matter of perception). On the other side they're not able to offer some of the cutting edge marketing services because of their determination to protect privacy.

That would be an ouch.

Will Google ever offer demographic targeting? I think so... despite this conflict (on which I'm just speculating) I don't see how Google can go on without offering something more on the demographic targeting front. I think something will come and I'm going to be very interested to see what that something will look like.

Oh, I said I was busy adding stars to my mobile version of Google Reader. What else did I star?