Creepy Chrome ads unintentionally highlight Google's data prowess

This probably wasn’t intentional on part of Google’s marketing team. But it sure is eerie!

It’s a London billboard ad promoting Google’s web browser Chrome, showing stats on how the product helped one hypothetical user grab a cheap ticket to South Africa for the World Cup without a browser crash. Although the ad is meant to highlight how much Google can help you manage your life, it also underscores how much data the search giant can collect on every single one of its users through e-mail, chat, search history and now tweets.

In the ad, Google keeps track of how many tabs the user had open, how many tweets they sent, and how much they paid for a plane ticket. Showing hyper-specific stats on how much Google helps in each instance might give users the sense they’re being closely watched — which could backfire.

The ad seems to build off themes Google used in an earlier campaign called Search Stories, which portrayed people using the search engine to engage in political activism and even fall in love with a Parisian. Last year marked the first time the eleven year-old company engaged in serious traditional advertising, with campaigns splashed across newspapers, transport stops and even on Google’s historically spartan homepage with ads for Chrome and the Nexus One.

Update: A couple commenters seem to have misunderstood the point of this post. The ad is not showing that Google can track your ‘second of doubt’ or your facial expressions. I just wanted to write about an ad campaign that has the unintended effect of bringing to mind the very qualities some users fear about the company’s data-mining abilities. It would be like Coke running ads pointing out the unhealthy amounts of high fructose corn syrup in their beverages.

Anyway, if you look at the actions on the ad, almost all of them can theoretically take place on a Google property. And if they’re not specifically on a Google property, that site could still have the Google Analytics’ tracking pixel loaded recording your visit or AdSense.

If you’re curious about what Chrome’s policies actually are, here is a link. None of the data Google collects has to be personally identifiable: the company will receive standard log information tied to your IP address. But one part is noteworthy. Unless you disable this feature in Chrome’s preferences, your keystrokes in the address bar are sent back to Google:

“When you type URLs or queries in the address bar, the letters you type are sent to Google so the Suggest feature can automatically recommend terms or URLs you may be looking for. If you choose to share usage statistics with Google and you accept a suggested query or URL, Google Chrome will send that information to Google as well. You can disable this feature as explained here.”

(Via PSFK)


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