Privacy, User Data, Trust and Marketing

I wish I could add more to Danny's excellent coverage of the government's bogus overarching power grab for data from search engines, but I can't, so I just want to parrot it. :)

The US government requested not personally identifiable search data from AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo! in an effort to evaluate how often children might find porn on the web. Everyone but Google handed it over. The US government is now suing Google.

The stock market punished Google heavily on this and other news, with the stock dropping from about $470 to $399 a share last week. While Google may have wanted to keep the data for trade secret related reasons they also win a ton of user trust by being the only company which said no to the request.

Compare their position to MicroSoft. Only after Google made this request an issue by denying it did news come out that other search companies, like MSN, gave over data last summer.

How did MSN's recent post make them look?

A prime opportunity was missed last summer. Back then there was a chance to come out at a time when Google was being pounded over privacy concerns and stand up to the government instead of folding like a cheap lawn chair and working out some technical response that we would only learn about months later when the heat was on and they had to say something. Shameful, really.

As a person who likes search this lawsuit makes me wish I was a bit smarter so I could work at Google.

As a marketer I think Google being the only one doing what they are doing is a great thing for them.

  • This heavily undermines the Google can't be trusted with data meme.

  • By being the content in the news they raise their brand exposure. If you ARE the content that people are talking about advertising is not needed to gain market share.
  • By standing up against the government they gain user trust. It is going to be hard for a competitor to build an ad demand network of Google's scale while also trying to build that much trust at the same time.

I think this incident enhances Google's implied value, as it will surely increase their market share.

Published: January 22, 2006 by Aaron Wall in search engines vs law


January 23, 2006 - 8:55pm

Indeed, I think this was a great coup for Google, esp. with only a few weeks ago articles talked about Google as Big Brother.

Additionally, I wonder what implication this will have for SEO, considering SEO companies use WordTracker and would love actual search engine keyword data.

January 24, 2006 - 10:26pm

I think Google is actually lacking perspective on this. I think Google may have gained some trust from SEOs, but at what real world cost? By pimping thier moral stand on privacy, there is a vacuum on thier stance on catching sexual predators.

January 24, 2006 - 11:09pm

Geez Jay...can I guess your moralistic, religious, and political stance from two sentences? If only the politicians were so transparent to the common person there would be far less corruption.

I personally have had some of my own records doctored or destroyed by people in the government. I have been to court where my brother admitted his guilt, but because the judge knew the plaintiff somehow I was still the guilty party. Shitty.

With good reason I tend not to blindly trust government officials. Especially considering the discretionary spending on military is greater than the discretionary spending on everything else combined.

When you look at the large debt and deficit questions should arise about how another 70 billion dollar tax cut is being rolled through at the same time as the bogus 40 billion dollar Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

Things start to smell funny, and this quote really rings home:

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

- anonymous...though frequently attributed to Lincoln around the time of the civil war

Unfortunately most people who get in a position of power to the scale Lincoln had are dishonest scumbag political puppets. Sure you could call me an ultra left winger or whatever for that opinion, but saying something is traditional means nothing other than saying it is hollow. I also think Clinton was almost as sleazy as Bush for giving Turkey arms to slaughter off their Kurdish population.

We all are at some point illegal criminals who have done something wrong. Even people like Ghandi admit to having done things like beat his wife. The difference of course is the scale of our wrongs. Blindly trusting large rich organizations does not make the world a safer or better place. On any level.

To error is human, and I don't think a central database of human and algorithmic spies makes for a better world. Especially since I recall being forced to participate in illegal activities when I was a member of the military. Why was I put in that postion? Why should international laws only matter some of the time?

Put another way

Every culture has its distinctive and normal system of government. Yours is democracy, moderated by corruption. Ours is totalitarianism, moderated by assassination.

- Unknown Russian

I hope that everyone who wants an end to privacy spends a decade or two in jail on bogus misinterpreted information gained by violating their privacy.

After seeing Google's stock plunge for standing up to the government I did what any decent citizen would do: buy more Google shares.

January 25, 2006 - 8:46am

Hi Aaron
You probably can't guess my political leanings. But calling me moralistic is like calling the kettle black, isnt it? You judged and condemned me on two sentences. You gave us a sermon. Your perogative, its your blog (excellent, I might add). but why insult me and pigeon hole me?
I would also add, that Google appears happy to censor itself and work with the Chinese govt, but not return the favor with the US govt.
Maybe you are quite sensitive to the privacy issue, with good reason. I am sensitive to the sexual predator issue, my last girl friend was a victim, and the psychological damage is... hell.

January 25, 2006 - 9:23am

Sorry to hear about your girlfriend. Sometimes things go the other way too. I guess everything is a balancing issue is more that when we really push exclusively for our own perspective and place trust in a central body that we thinks should fit our own situation perfectly much is lost.

I will be the first to admit that I have done shitty stuff like almost dying from self destructive behavior and things like pissing off great friends. I am not totally innocent, but I don't think heavily tracking everyone will lead to a better life for many people. And it will likely cause more people to get screwed over on false hunches (or the selective use of lots of half assed evidence and random coincidences).

Here is a perfect example for you (a time when DNA didn't mean shit): one of my sisters friends was raped and murdered. They did DNA testing on my brother and my sisters boyfriend. Neither of them matched the DNA of the guy who raped that poor girl. And yet my brother is in jail for that murder. So is my sister. No real evidence of any sort. Just manufactured emotion and confessions through torture.

I could also tell you about how razors were used to slit open my brothers stomach. I could tell you about how they put matches out between his toes. I could also tell you about the inmate who called my mother and apologized for what he did to my brother and talked about how he got out early for doing it, but you probably wouldn't care because you don't know my brother or sister or that whole story. 23 years in jail for my sister probably does not mean much to you.

How many innocent people that wind up in jail end up getting raped? Did the guy who hurt your girlfriend search for rape stuff? Or was it something that happened without prior planning?

Sometimes people fantasize about what they are told is right or wrong. Marketers market at demand. If demand exists marketers spur on demand and people find the related information.

People search for poo porn (gross), but that does not mean that they all smear poo all over themselves or whatever.

Like look at that Jose Padilla guy. How long has he been in jail? For what? Where do you draw the line?

You do realize that around 1 in 183 US citizens are in jail right now. If we are such criminals should we all be in jails or should the laws be changed?

I have never been to any sort of a real jail, but I would not want to see what it would do to me.

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