All the talk about intuiting online behavior from the content of an Internet search has always fallen a bit flat. The nagging suspicion that words by themselves can tell us only so much about the person behind them has only been highlighted by revelations about what smartphones can tell us. Mobile computers—and their mobile sensors—can record far more information about the circumstances of an Internet search than any Dell desktop moldering in a basement ever can.
As mobile technology advances, Google and Facebook and the other behemoth data collectors are dreaming of advertising gold buried within contextual mobile data; all that’s left is to mine it. Our phones can already tell us where we are, what the temperature is, who we communicate with, what our daily routines tend to be. To an Internet marketer, this is simply useful information for better tailoring banners and text ads; but to a consumer, it smacks of surreptitious homing devices that used to fall within the realm of mid-century spy thrillers.
This type of passive data collection is at stark odds with how people are used to interacting with computers, or with any technology, for that matter: an explicit request for information, which is duly returned as quickly and accurately as possible.
Don’t take this personally. A loyal marketer might passionately argue that if effective advertising is squeezed from the Internet, free online content, as we know it, will also be a remnant of fonder times. While there is a degree of truth in this statement, the argument between mobile advertising and privacy is not binary. The challenge for technology companies as more people ditch their bulky computers for mobile devices will be how to achieve a justified balance between the two.
Secretly, we all want to love our technology. Getting in the way of our affection doesn’t benefit anybody.
Read more about smartphone advertising and privacy over at iMediaConnection.