FairSearch: Google Is Lying [Updated]

Chris CrumSearchNews

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Update 2: Politico says it didn't pull any ads (via Danny Sullivan).

The FairSearch Coalition put up a blog post today saying Google lied about a FairSearch ad campaign.

The post references a recent Public Policy Blog post from Google's Betsy Masiello that went by the title: "Busting Myths About Our Approach to Privacy."

The first "myth," as Masiello puts it, says:

Myth: In 2011, Google made $36 billion selling information about users like you. [Fairsearch - PDF]

Fact: Google does not sell, trade or rent personally identifiable user information. Advertisers can run ads on Google that are matched to search keywords, or use our services to show ads based on anonymous data, such as your location or the websites you’ve visited.

FairSearch says:

Ironically, the stated intent of Masiello’s post is to “give you the facts.” And yet, her first point is factually inaccurate. Here’s what the ad actually says (check out the PDF, which remains online):

“Google sold over $36 billion of targeted advertising in 2011."

That’s straight out of Google’s own statement of its 2011 full-year financial results, which shows $36.531 billion in “total advertising revenue.”

The FairSearch post then goes on to point out an update to Masiello’s post, which says:

*Update: The FairSearch ad referenced below as myth #1 was pulled because it was inaccurate.

"That’s just pure fiction," FairSearch says. "The ads ran as part of a week-long series in several publications, which all thoroughly fact-checked our statements (for the record, we passed). And the campaign is still up on our website."

This appears to be the ad in question as FairSearch presents it:

FairSearch Google Ad

A source tells WebProNews the actual ad ran here, and did say "Google made $36 billion selling information about users like you."

Update: Another source points out:

The rest of the ad that ran on Politico (as linked to above) clearly refers to targeted advertising. It says the following:

A message from FairSearch.org: Every time you use “free” Google products like Search, Maps or Gmail, Google is collecting data about you. The more information it has about you, the more money it can make selling targeted advertising. Recently, Google announced a new privacy policy (which users can’t opt out of) which will track everything you do using 60 of its most popular products, including Search and Gmail. Which means they make that much more “monetizing” you. Now that’s good to know. www.fairsearch.org/goodtoknow **

FairSearch tells WebProNews, "Google’s blog post clearly linked to the ad that you embedded in your post, not the Politico ad, leaving Google Public Policy Blog readers with two false impressions: 1) that the ad was pulled (neither was) and 2) that it was false (both ads were approved by the publications that accepted them, and are accurate). Repeating a falsehood does not make it true. FairSearch stands by its blog post."

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.