Is Google, Yahoo, and Amazon going too far with our personal data?

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

The core business of Google, Yahoo, and many online advertisers are beginning to be challenged. Congress and the general public are starting to take notice of their every move online is being tracked. When you get online ads that seem to be tailored made for you, it isn’t coincidence. Your data is being tracked, sometimes sold, and used to deliver ads that are most relevant. There is a movement that is gaining momentum to scrutinize closer, the companies who data mine your information. Could this be the start of curtailing the marketing power of Google, Yahoo, and even Amazon?

Advertisers pay big money to these companies to get your data so they know as much personal information as possible. Even in the fine print of any phone that uses the Android platform gives Google permission to listen in on your conversations so they know what you are talking about and then use that information to sell to other companies or use it themselves. All of this to market to you. To advertisers, data mining is digging for gold. To consumers, it’s becoming a concern that their privacy is not only being invaded, but being sold to third parties without their consent.

The advertising industry and the online industry are scrambling to self-police and make their policies more transparent. They are even funding internet tracking firms to give consumers an easy way for them to stop all tracking of their data by any online company. Kind of an internet version of the “don’t call list”. The online industry is trying to be very proactive before government steps in and apply even more stringent rules. People are also fighting back against the online companies who data mine. For example, a couple in Pittsburgh won a federal district case against Google. They claimed that Google trespassed on their property while getting images of their house for Google Earth and Google Maps. The damages was only $1, but the couple wasn’t out for money. They were in it for the moral purpose of saying companies like Google have no right to take their date, in this case, a photo of their house, and publish it online without their consent.

What does all this mean to brands and advertising online? When it comes to the bottom line, not much right now. It still won’t affect how much advertisers are paying for online tactics (web ads, text ads, SEO, PPC, etc.) In the future, it could mean a dramatic shift. Right now, the online world’s advantage is their real time data they give to marketers. It is this information they use to deliver relevant ads to consumers. If this supply of data is constricted or if there are large segments of the population who go “off the grid”, then the main advantage of online media diminishes a great deal.

As a result, many marketers need go back to the basics: create a strong brand, connect emotionally, stand for something beyond making money. In reality, marketers should have been practicing these things all along. Technology has become too much of a crutch for many businesses, large and small. They forget that business is still between two people. If you don’t connect on a human level, you are easily replaced. It’s easier to change stores or suppliers when all you know is a machine. It’s harder to switch from Joe or Sally, who you know has your best interest in mind, they share common life situations as you, and their family is very much like yours.

The data you get from all of the analytics is great and does provide insights to your customers. With the rising concern about personal data privacy and the political landscape, you’re better off getting back to the basics of great marketing and brand building. This will keep your business relevant to your customers regardless what constrictions congress or the public places on data.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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