Google Shuts Down Referral Tracking: Privacy Protector or Data Horder

The big news this week was Google’s attempt to conduct a low-key roll out of a hot button change to it business operations.  If you haven’t caught the viral news ripping through the industry yet, Google cowardly announced its controversial decision to block Referral Url information on organic search traffic via its Google Analytics blog.  Yes, Google lowered itself to the same gutter rat standards of its lightly policed Content Network publishers who have been employing the same weblog manipulating tactics which have defrauded Advertisers of billions of dollar.

Google’s rationale behind the move?  “Protecting user privacy is important to us, and we want to take this opportunity to explain what the Google Analytics team is doing to help you continue measuring your website effectively in light of these changes.”  Yes folks, Google now wants to be the protector of our privacy.  Let us all take a moment and share some internet messaging shorthand responses: LOL, ROFL, BMGWL, DNPMPL and LMFAO…emphasize the F.

Lets be serious, this is no effort to protect the privacy of its users.  If it were, Google would have applied similar rules to its paid search and non-logged in user query data. It would also set the “login cookies” to expire in no less than 30 days rather than leave vulnerable login information available.  Its privacy for a profit.  The goals of Google here are multifaceted:

  • Force more Advertisers to play ball and pay for search listings
  • Limit the behavioral targeting firms from developing competitive data sets
  • Become the centralized controller of all online user data

The ramifications for Advertisers are very serious.  While Google Account logins are sparse today, representing approximately 10%-15% of the online community, Google’s internal focus with it projects +1 and Google+ are aimed at getting users to login and stayed logged in constantly.  These new projects are aimed at getting people socially engaged with limited barriers to entry where consumers are readily agreeable to signup and Google can in turn build a profile on the user which today it is currently lacking.  If Google is able to gain wider user acceptance of these new projects as compared to the massive user acceptance failures they’ve experienced with Google Checkout, Google Chrome and Gmail, their coverage of the user community could easily grow to 50%-60% in 18-24 months.

That’s when it gets scary.  Take a minute and think about how you are going to optimize your website for SEO success when you are missing 50% of the data.

The actions by Google are just another show of arrogance it has consistently displayed to the hand which feeds them.  They don’t need or care to respect the desires of its stakeholders because of its market share dominance.  They  know we have nowhere else to go, so you’ll just have to suck it up.  Just review the comments online from Advertisers and Webmasters, tens of thousands of negative responses.  Even the CEO of NetFlix got more support than this with his Qwikster idea before he capitulated on a bad business decision that outraged his stakeholders.

The reasons behind Google’s actions will obviously play out over the next year.  The best hunch is that this appears to be a clear sign that Google is marking their territory like an aggressive stray cat y limiting competitor data collection.  By not limiting their own data collection or limiting the length of the data collection on dormant user, this isn’t about privacy.  Its about Google knowing more than anyone else about users, which is deeply concerning for both competitors and customers.  Nobody wins in this battle for data supremacy, except for Google, and its stinks of anti-competitiveness.  In the meantime, Google is laughing all the way to the bank.

While it is wishful thinking, it would great to see a revolution on the web akin to what we are seeing with individuals who have been suppressed around the world by domineering leaders with no concerns except for their own well being.  Here’s hoping that a viral wave will catch on where Webmasters and Advertisers alike place script code on their website that identifies traffic from manipulated Referring URLs users and prompts visitors with the following message: “Google Is Tracking You, Click Here To Log Out Of Google”.

The one thing Google doesn’t control is our ability to warn users and advise they sign out.  Here’s hoping for a revolution.

One Response to “Google Shuts Down Referral Tracking: Privacy Protector or Data Horder”

  1. Russell says:

    I was just watching this on PBS this week. They spoke the same things you wrote about.

    Review my web-site :: Free TV Links, Russell,

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