Google Analytics are Cool but Creepy

I attended a meeting recently, or rather a series of meetings, with a group of marketing, brand and communications professionals. The theme of these meetings was, “Know yourself and know your audience.” One session focused on how to run a business in a digital world and the strategies and tactics businesses utilize to collect analytics on perspective and current clients.  The meeting’s facilitator dove deep into how she is collecting data – and applying that data about users – using, what else, Google.

We saw slide after slide about how businesses are grabbing key data as we surf the internet. After a few slides one person in the room called out, “Wow, that is both so cool and so creepy.” Exactly my thoughts.

Technology has done wonders for our ability to track everything we do. I love that I can search for the best price for my next flight, buy a new pair of shoes or find my next job on the internet, from the comfort of my couch. I don’t have to stand in line to pay or search for a parking spot at a busy mall. No one is tapping on my shoulder, with a fake smile, saying, “can I help you?” I can search, buy or sign up in the privacy of my own home.

Ah, but while I feel like what I am doing is private – that I can search and find what I need on my own and my transaction is between me, my computer and the website – oh boy, that is wrong. The crowded store in the busy mall will know much less about me than the business’s website I am visiting to make my transaction. Thanks to Google tracking and analytics.

That website can track my IP address and know exactly where I am located. If I have an account with that business and buy stuff often, they know a lot about me and my buying preferences. They track every page I visit on their website, how I go from page to page and how often I spend on those pages.

Do you have an account with Facebook? Take a look at the ads on the right side of your screen or the sponsored content that appears in your newsfeed. If I had booked a hotel online recently I may see an ad for the hotel chain where I will be staying. If I clicked on a link posted by a Facebook friend about a particular brand, I may see ads from that brand. Thanks to Google analytics, businesses and brands follow my internet searching and clicking behaviour and I see customized content and ads based on those analytics.

Really cool, and ya, really creepy.

I give Google credit that they don’t hide this. Go to Google and do a search for “Google analytics” and you find this:

Google Analytics Solutions – Marketing Analytics & Measurement …

Google Analytics Solutions offer free and enterprise analytics tools to measure website, app, digital and offline data to gain customer insights.

Customer insights. What’s that? Well, according to Wikipedia (yes, I like to search for background information on this website and they must love me) it is an “interpretation of trends in human behaviours which aims to increase effectiveness of a product or service for the consumer, as well as increase sales for mutual benefit.”

To me, that’s a fancy way of saying that a business collects as much as they can about me so they can target me so I spend money with them. Cool but creepy.

As businesses invest more in technology and we, as a society, rely more heavily on technology, they, using our friend Google, will track our moves and our behaviours more and more. It’s exciting to see what technology can do and also a bit scary. I will still do my searching and buying online, at home, on my couch. And most of the time I will start on my favourite website, Google.

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