mobile news

Google tests mobile app technology that tracks users to see if they visit the stores they search for

Google is beta-testing a program that can track smartphone and tablet users everywhere they go, which could allow advertisers to find out if users who search for a store online actually visit it in the real-world.

The program works by accessing user data via Android apps or Google’s iOS apps including Google search, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Maps.

If someone is using an app or has one running in the background, the smartphone location data can then be used to determine if and when they visit physical stores.

Digiday, which first broke the story, suggests for example that if someone searches for ‘screwdriver’ on a Google mobile device or app, a local hardware store could bid to have its store listing served to that user.

Google can then pair that person’s location data with its database of store listings, ultimately allowing advertisers to see if the person who saw that ad subsequently visited the store.

Google is already talking to advertisers about the technology, claiming it will allow them to more accurately measure in-store conversions.

A recent study from Nielsen estimated that mobile users spent an average of around 15 hours researching for various products on mobile sites and apps, with 55% of consumers wanting to make a purchase within a 1-hour time period.

The “Location Services” of the consumers’ phones will need to be switched on for the new tracking program within the Google apps to be able to track users.

This new tracking program proposed by Google could be useful in assisting mobile advertisers as well as physical stores who want to conduct more mobile advertising since they will have more metadata on how customers interact with their Google applications when they are searching for various products.

However, the new Google tracking program also raises new privacy concerns since many users may not be aware that they are being tracked in this manner when they are using Google’s apps (even if they are running in background).

Many users may also object to having their physical locations being tracked by Google and opt to either disable their “Location Services”  or stop using Google’s mobile applications entirely.

Therefore Google will have to address the privacy & security concerns its mobile users will have with its new tracking program soon before users might start to be tracked in more detail and in new ways without their knowledge or consent.

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By Matthew Salava

A senior Information Technology student at FSU. I will be graduating in Spring 2014.

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