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Google Backing Off Behavioral Targeting

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The search advertising company recently spun a message to reporters about having no interest in deep behavioral targeting. It’s no coincidence they had this relatively unprecedented chat at this point in time.

Google Backing Off Behavioral Targeting
Google Backing Off Behavioral Targeting

Aside from Google’s annual media day, and the Searchology event it hosted this summer, the company isn’t known for bringing in the unwashed journalistic masses for a sit-down with an executive for a friendly talk about the company’s plans.

Reuters and several others reported on the chat with Susan Wojcicki, vice president of product management for ad programs, and sister-in-law of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. She had a message for the attendees: Google really doesn’t want to delve too deeply into anyone’s privacy.

Behavioral targeting? Pshaw. Google isn’t going to pursue that unseemly path, said the report:

“That is not something that we have participated in, for a variety of reasons,” Wojcicki told reporters at a briefing at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

“We believe that task-based information at the time (of a user’s search) is the most relevant information to what they are looking at,” she said. “We always want to be very careful about what information would or would not be used.”

Sounds swell, doesn’t it? We aren’t buying this. Google has a slew of competitors complaining to the FTC and the DoJ about their DoubleClick acquisition, and Congressional headline-seekers ready to haul the company onto Capitol Hill for a dog-and-pony show over privacy concerns.

If Google is really backing off the behavioral throttle, we can think of two reasons. One, they would rather not feed their DoubleClick deal critics any more ammo. That’s a sensible enough reason to tell anyone working on behavioral targeting at Google right now to do something else.

The second reason looks more likely. Google doesn’t need to work on behavioral targeting. This is what DoubleClick does, even though that charged phrase doesn’t make it into DoubleClick’s self-laudatory website.

FTC certainly thinks there’s something to the behavioral targeting angle. As the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) noted, the Federal Trade Commission agreed that it needed to hold at least one “town hall meeting” on the topic of behavioral targeting.

That meeting should happen sometime this fall. Google is taking the entirely reasonable stance of not giving federal regulators additional reasons to reject their DoubleClick deal.

Don’t think for a second the company that recommends advertising as a way to fight negative stories about the healthcare industry would be chatting up its neighborhood press pool just to tell them Google isn’t doing something. We can feel the spin from here.

Google Backing Off Behavioral Targeting
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