Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Every day we browse the internet and come across a story about a leading tech giant. Within these stories, the writer will normally over-exaggerate the fact that the company tracks your every move on the Internet. Google, Facebook, Microsoft almost all of them do it to an extent. It’s a known fact yet still comes as a surprise to many readers. This leads us to read comments that are filled with remarks like “I’m leaving the Internet. I can’t believe they track everything! I feel so insecure now!”
The simple fact that you feel secure on the internet to begin with can be an issue, but that isn’t the topic of this article. The topic is the fact people don’t understand that Google – and other websites – tracking you isn’t necessarily a bad thing! There are many positive things to think about, and plenty of reasons to let them do it. It’s great for companies, but at the same time it can be great for you.
You watch television and you more than likely absolutely hate the commercials. You probably yell “WE JUST HAD A COMMERCIAL!” when watching The Walking Dead, or play with your phone till the show comes back on. Why do you hate the commercials? Because 9 out of 10 of them are boring, worthless, and are about products you have no interest in at all. You probably have thoughts such as “I’m young; I have no interest in that fancy car, or that car, or that other car.” You probably couldn’t afford a majority of the products even if you did want it. That, or you are sick and tired of watching insurance commercials.
The problem is the people creating the advertisements don’t have direct information about who is watching the show. They create a commercial for a general audience, release it, pay for a few slots, and hope it works. The most they have is a very general consensus of age groups watching each show. These age groups can vary from 18-50 in one group to 18-30 in another. There are some surveys that demonstrated an age group of 15-45. Those are rather large groups and facing facts they are not 100 percent accurate either.
According to surveys, if you are a young male you are supposed to go nuts for football, watch car shows when not watching football, and spend whatever time is left on channels like Spike TV. The truth is you probably couldn’t care less about NFL football, watch car shows on occasions, and didn’t even notice Spike TV was gone when DirecTV took it off the air. Yet commercials made for you are floating out there while you are stuck watching another Viagra commercial on Discovery Channel.
This is where Google tracking steps in and changes things entirely. It can track anyone and notice, “Hey, this guy doesn’t like football and loves hockey.” What does that do? Well, if a commercial is targeting the NFL fans, it won’t show it to a person not interested in football, period. However, if the same company has a hockey targeted commercial, it will show this instead.
Google will eventually notice that you can’t afford a car, so it won’t show car commercials. If you are not currently searching for insurance, why bother showing that either?
It’s handy because it’s more focused on you and what you are interested in. If television commercials were this way perhaps people wouldn’t grab their phone (or computer) and browse the internet through the commercial break. Instead people would be peeking at the TV going “hmm that product is actually interesting, I’ll have to check it out!” Some commercials do this already. Occasionally, between all the extremely stupid insurance commercials and “buy this car!” commercials, something remotely interesting appears. The product is probably from a smaller company so you rush to the Internet to find more information.
Of course the Google system fails at times because the bigger companies do have more money and will find ways to pop up more often. You could simply be searching for insurance one day and get stuck with 24 hour Geico ads for instance. It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s a lot better than being generalized with people that are “supposed” to be like you.
This is why people shouldn’t freak out about Google and related companies tracking them. Would you rather be looking at uninteresting ads all day? The direct targeting isn’t just for business sake; it’s for you as well. It’s finding what interests you and giving you suggestions based on that. The companies love this since you are more likely to buy their product and you should love it because it’s a product you actually want or can use.
There are negative sides to tracking people. Facebook might go a little far since it has way more personal information, but these big massive companies are not going to do anything stupid with it. If they are caught selling your information they get sued, and people start hating them. Why risk it? They just want to improve business, and your experience. If you still feel uncomfortable about it, always feel free to decline the agreement they are forced to give you before using the service. Just remember you are not paying to use these services and ads are necessary.