Whilst chatting with my 80 year old father this afternoon he told me that he had spotted some adverts for a food blender recently on websites that he had been visiting – oddly he was looking to buy a new food blender and thought this a happy coincidence.
When I explained to him that this was not a coincidence but actually down to those clever folk at Google he became concerned as to how this could be quite dangerous. He suggested I blog the conversation that then followed as it helped.
I tried to explain that the personal information Google stores is anonymous, even though a name might exist within that record – the personal information is still treated as anonymous. I struggled to make this clear because it does not make much sense and so I gave the following analogy – this worked quite well.
A man walks into a bar, goes up to the bartender and asks for a pint of beer – the bartender serves the man his beer and because things are a little quiet begins chatting with the man to pass the time, they talk about football, the weather, the economy and other such things. The bartender remembers this information as it helps him attract more people to his bar when he is personable with customers.
Whilst the man drinks his beer and chats he spots a beer mat on the bar with a sponsored message printed on it for an alternative beer, the bartender has an arrangement with the brewery regarding these promotional items.
The next pint the man orders is in fact the beer advertised on the beermat – the man thought he would try something new and to his surprise he loved it, in fact he loved it so much he decided to tell his mate about it.
The conclusion to this little story should be pretty straight forward and obvious – the beermat that the brewery used to promote its beer worked and because it tasted great the happy customer recommended it to a friend.
The man never signed any terms and conditions stating that he consented to receive marketing communications from third party breweries as he entered the pub, he simply chose to drink a pint in that pub, chat to the bartender, chat to his mate and so on.
When we put this scenario online – Google becomes the pub, serving information to everyone and the man in the pub becomes you and I, the users or Googlers, using Google to get information (or beer).
Google Adsense placed the sponsored message (beermat) on the website it sent you to. This sponsored message was tailored by Google to display information relating to your original search queries.
Google+ is Googles way of allowing you to then tell your buddy – because, by clicking on the +1 button you instantly recommend that website or page to all your buddies.
By using the above analogy you should now be able to see that the Personal Information you provided to Google only needs to stay with the Google, the advertiser or sponsor does not need it.
With Google the advertiser only knows its audience as a demographic profile such as age, date of birth, gender and so on, not a list of names and addresses.
Do you remember how the man chatted to the barman about football? One difference between our online and offline worlds is that Google remembers everything you said and can also serve adverts and information to you about your preferred football team as and when it thinks you might want it.
If you don’t like the thought of this then you can stop it by turning off the cookies in your web browser. Once you do this, it will be like the barman never even met you!