Apr 282011

Google has come to fancy themselves as sophisticated manipulators of the media, which isn’t saying much since the collective media hivemind is about as sharp as a sack of wet mice. Witness the “user study” released by Mountain View today touting how awesome location-relevant mobile ads are. Given that this report uses data from the end of 2010, one would wonder why Google chose now – almost 5 months later – to release data about the effectiveness of mobile advertising?  The obvious motivation is the last clause of the topic paragraph:

“71% of smartphone users search because of an ad they’ve seen either online or offline; 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads, 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, and 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.” (emphasis mine)

Let’s connect the dots. Yesterday, Apple responded to frothing media and political questioning about a .db file that contained what (to some) looked like a chronicle of user locations. Apple debunked the “tracking” myth by explaining that the locations discovered in the file were actually the locations of all nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers “to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location.” In a phone interview with Ina Fried, Steve Jobs also went on record as saying that Apple would be certainly be appearing before Congress about Apple’s practices that he would be interested to see how “lazy” the press would be in pursuing other location data collectors (i.e. Google), intimating that others might not be as “hands off” with location data.

I will bet anyone that this “Mobile Movement” Survey will be cited no less than 743 times by Google representatives during congressional testimony.

“So why is it that you need to actively track location and have that information sent back to Google on an ongoing basis? Apple doesn’t need to do this.”

“Apple and Google have very different business models. Consumers query Google using their mobile devices with an expectation of receiving location-relevant results. As we discovered in a survey we released earlier this decade year, an overwhelming percentage of people click on search results that are geographically relevant. In order to maintain these high quality results, it is necessary to track users wherever they go.”

The timing of the release of this survey was anything but arbitrary. It’s laying the groundwork for a more invasive level of user tracking and will serve as a justification for how “up in your shit” Google is when Congress calls them out.

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