Google tracks everything you do, and they are not limited to just tracking you online. The search giant is now developing ways to track users across laptops, tablets and smartphones. They can even follow you right down to the the stores you visit and businesses you call from your mobile device.
The new Google AdWords feature, called “Estimated Total Conversions“, is aimed at advertisers that use the platform to serve their ads to you while you browse the Internet. The idea behind the new technology is to track a user from the time they are served an advertisement, until the time they walk into a brick and mortar store, or shop online in order to purchase the advertised product. Google uses the following pitch when selling the new feature to advertisers:
People are constantly connected, using multiple devices throughout the day to shop, communicate and stay entertained. A September 2013 study of multi-device consumers found that over 90% move sequentially between several screens for everyday activities like booking a hotel or shopping for electronics.
As consumers are increasingly on the go and switching between devices, marketers are telling us they want to see a more complete and accurate picture of how their online advertising drives conversions. Conversions can come in many forms: visits to stores, phone calls, app downloads, website sales or purchases made after consulting various devices. Getting better insight into these complex purchase paths can help you optimize your online advertising and allocate budget more effectively.
In addition to your web browsing habits, Google is now tracking your call logs, your GPS records, and a list of the devices that you use on a daily basis. This of course includes your mobile phones, tablets, laptops and more. All in the name of targeted advertising and conversion statistics.
Google has the ability to access many types of user data from Android apps as well as Google branded apps for the Apple iOS including Google search, Gmail, Google Maps and the Chrome web browser. If a person is using any of these apps while they are shopping, or happens to have them running in the background, Google can use that data to pinpoint the user’s location and see if they are in a store or other place of business.
So if you were on your laptop searching for a new television, and you were presented with a Best Buy advertisement in the search results, Google could tell if you walked into, or called a local Best Buy an hour later to make the purchase. You would only need to have your mobile device along for the ride, Google would be recording the entire process. This would be an example of Google’s “Cross Device Conversion” technology.
Android users give permission for Google to track them in this manner when they opt-in to use “location services” on their smartphone’s Options menu. iPhone users allow this behavior when they agree to allow “location services” for apps like Google Maps and Gmail.
Online tracking is nothing new, however Google has taken this a step further by continuing its tracking efforts into the real world.
About the author…
Chris Dougherty is a grey hat hacker and online security expert. Please visit his blog, www.VirtualThreat.com, for more excellent news and information about protecting yourself in cyberspace.