Google’s mobile revenue problem just got harder to solve. As Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries reported in the Wall Street Journal:
The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.
Google disabled its code after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.
This is all being spun as here Google goes again, doing something “evil”. But the real issue is how it affects their bottom line. Mobile advertising companies are fucked if they’re not able to track users the way that they’ve been doing on the desktop. It makes it much harder to do behavioral ad targeting and will likely make click-through rates decline. But, as John Battelle points out, it’s not like Google was doing anything different from what companies have been doing in desktop browsers:
In short, Apple’s mobile version of Safari broke with common web practice, and as a result, it broke Google’s normal approach to engaging with consumers. Was Google’s “normal approach” wrong? Well, I suppose that’s a debate worth having – it’s currently standard practice and the backbone of the entire web advertising ecosystem – but the Journal doesn’t bother to go into those details. One can debate whether setting cookies should happen by default – but the fact is, that’s how it’s done on the open web.
Anyone else find it weird that tracking your every move as much as possible is “common web practice” and became the de facto standard for the “open web”?
“Don’t get upset about Path, this is standard practice!”
“Psh, Google’s just doing what it does all the time on the desktop anyway.”
I vote that the ‘business as usual’ or ‘standard practice’ defense can only be used if your users can explain what you’re actually doing. If they can’t, you’re not lying but you’re certainly omitting or couching the truth.