Does Google Know What You’re Doing Offsite?

    June 12, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Google’s behavioral targeting is an inevitability and, in one form, a current practice. People are aware of personalized results when logged into their accounts, and certainly retail sites are aware of what you’re checking out. But a recent forum poster reports Google’s apparent knowledge of what he was doing off-site.

And the thought of that is a little unnerving.

Pinpoint ad targeting

"Discovery" at Search Engine Watch’s forum had visited several retail sites to compare computers for sale. After this browsing session, Discovery went to Google, ran a search on "comparison engines," which would typically bring back sponsored results for, you know, comparison engines or online marketing outfits (then again, that could be Google watching me research, too), but instead Google presented sponsored ads for computers.

Discovery writes:

"I had not done a search on Google at any time for PCs, or on their shopping site.

"Is Google using behavioral targeting already? I had heard there were announcements that this would happen with the acquisition of DoubleClick, but I have had no notice that it was in practice?"

Some in the forum suggested it could be a test of some kind and not what Google is doing for everyone yet. If Discovery was sufficiently creeped out by it, it was recommended he clear his cache before searching or enter in a special search command.

Just one more step toward Google’s All-Seeing-Eye, one might suppose. Let the privacy debate begin.

Hat tip to Search Engine Roundtable.