Google faces potential class action, FTC penalties for ‘surreptitious’ location tracking

A California resident named Napoleon Patacsil has filed a lawsuit against Google in federal court (Patacsil v. Google, Inc.) seeking class action status. The suit alleges personal injuries in the form of various California privacy violations stemming from “surreptitious monitoring” of user location.

The suit was filed after an AP article identified the fact that Google location capture still occurs on mobile devices even when Location History is turned off. Following the report, Google changed help language to clarify that location is still used, even though Location History is disabled.

The new language reads:

This [Location History] setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.

The litigation was first reported by Reuters.

There are a number of privacy-related claims in the lawsuit, one of which is that Google’s conduct violates California penal code section 637.7, which prohibits the use of “an electronic tracking device to determine the location or movement of a person.” There are two exceptions: for user consent and for valid uses by law enforcement (e.g., with a search warrant).

Litigation firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein is apparently representing plaintiff Patacsil. Should the suit achieve class action status, it could make the case very expensive for Google. However, Google’s liability is not certain, nor are damages.

Unless provided by statute, the damages aspect of the case is challenging for the plaintiff to prove. Google could and likely would argue that location services make phones perform better and that he and any potential class members can’t show they were harmed by Google Search or Maps’ use of location.

In parallel with the litigation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission claiming that the facts in the AP article constitute a violation of a consent decree (.pdf) the company agreed to in 2011. EPIC told the FTC:

[Location tracking] clearly violates Google’s 2011 settlement with the FTC. Google is not permitted to track users after they have made clear in their privacy settings that they do not want to be tracked. This privacy violation affects all Android users and iPhone users who use Google Maps or search. EPIC urges the Commission to enforce its Order and hold Google accountable.

The consent decree was tied to Google’s ill-fated Buzz social network (remember that?). The claim in that case was that Google used “deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers.” This is what EPIC is saying Google has done in the present case.

In my quick analysis of Google’s potential exposure over location tracking, I had forgotten the 2011 consent decree. In many ways, that is a bigger threat than the civil litigation and could bring significant financial penalties in excess of $41,000 for single violations.


Instagram makes a play to keep users scrolling with new ‘Recommended For You’ posts

Instagram is testing a new feature that recommends posts to users based on their follower lists and photos and videos they have liked.

The recommended posts will show up in a section at the end of a user’s Feed under a “Recommended for You” label. (Per the screen shot shared by the company, there is also a “Keep Scrolling for Recommendations” message displayed below the “You’re All Caught Up” notification.)

Instagram has added the blue “Follow” button to recommended posts so that users can easily add accounts to their follower lists.

“Our goal is to make the Feed the best place to share and connect with the people and interests that matter most to you. Now, with recommended posts, you can see even more of what [is] being shared by our community,” says Instagram.

In July, Instagram a “You’re All Caught Up” feature to help users better manage the amount of time they spend on the app. This latest test feels like a step in the opposite direction from Instagram’s original efforts last month to promote digital-well being. Instead of giving users a reason to close the app, they’re encouraging them to keep scrolling through their Feed even after they’ve caught up with all the content from their followers.

Instagram says that the feature is rolling out over the next few days and that it is making product revisions based on user feedback.

Marketing Land has reached out to Instagram to ask if ads or posts from brands will be included in the recommended content but has not yet received a response.


Why more automation from Google Ads is good for tool makers and PPC careers

We’re now all adjusting to the new interface of Google Ads. Change at what was formerly called AdWords is constant, and some of the biggest adaptations we’ll need to adjust to may still be in store.

Google keeps moving toward a more automated ad system under CEO Sundar Pichai, who says the future of Google is artificial intelligence.

As someone who builds PPC tools for a living, I’ve had to do some soul-searching to figure out if my work is likely to remain relevant in an industry that is seemingly moving toward full automation courtesy of the search engines.

The more I investigate automation features like Smart Shopping campaigns and changes to Google Ads like simplified targeting options for ads on mobile apps, I can’t help but come away encouraged that the work my team and other tool and script creators do will remain very valuable for a while to come.

For the many agencies and consultants who have questions about their future role in an industry dominated by automation, I’ll lay out some of my thoughts about our future prospects here.

Know your customer and you will thrive

One of the cool things about running a SaaS company is that I get to know a lot about my customers and their needs. One of the best lessons I learned when working at Google was that I’d have a good career as long as I stayed close to the customer.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Understanding the convergence of industry 4.0 and the rise of autonomous vehicles

As a society and as marketers, we’ve moved into embracing a brave new world bursting with myriad emerging technologies so quickly that we don’t take the time to understand the interconnections. We see new entrants like cryptocurrency and the internet of things (IoT) as singular, when in fact, they are symbiotic in nature. Together, these trends form an extensive, disruptive infrastructure.

Search advertising is often discussed within the context of a digital marketing vacuum, with the words “performance” and “efficiency” driving conversations. In our busy daily routines, we seldom look past the last click to see what the future may hold.

But search behavior is one of the most accurate predictors of human intent on earth. So, why don’t we look to it more often to answer important questions about what’s happening in our time?

Today, we’ll do just that. Let’s use search in the context of a leading indicator of attitudinal behavior shifts to better understand the rise of the autonomous vehicle (AV) and the mega-disruption of our time: convergence.

Groundbreaking technologies and the as-a-service economy are deeply interrelated. If you take time to think with precision about the impact of these disruptive trends, you will begin to clearly identify the power of convergence and how these seemingly unique ideas are ubiquitous and closely intertwined. Convergence is the truest form of digital transformation, and it’s happening all around us.

Bing Ads (my employer) recently analyzed 600,000 instances of queries over 16 months from categories aligned with a variety of disruptive trends to better understand and quantify their momentum. What we’ve learned, and our methods, can benefit marketers seeking to reach B2B and B2C audiences in these emerging areas.

In the stream graph below, we looked at six months of recent data and used average site time as a proxy to understand user engagement:

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Marketing Day: Europe punishing sites with illegal content, digital ad spend on the rise & more

Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

From Marketing Land:

Recent Headlines From MarTech Today, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Marketing Technology:

      • New report from MarTech Today: Enterprise Customer Data Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide
        Aug 20, 2018 by Digital Marketing Depot
        The customer data platform (CDP) market is expected to generate $1 billion in revenue by 2019, according to the CDP Institute, as both employment and the number of CDP vendors doubled in 2017. Driving growth is a perfect storm of increasing complexity in the customer journey, the martech stack and data governance.

Online Marketing News From Around The Web:


Europe to punish sites for not removing ‘illegal content’ within one hour

In March of this year, the European Commission (EC) created guidelines and recommendations for the removal of “illegal content” (primarily terrorist propaganda) from websites within Europe. At the time, the rules were voluntary; now the EC is going to impose fines if publishers and tech companies fail to comply.

Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that regulations will be published next month for review. The mandatory rules would require the content in question to be removed within one hour following notification.

The EC is taking action because there hasn’t been sufficient voluntary action and progress, according to Julian King, EU commissioner for security, who is quoted in the report. Here, “illegal content” is broadly defined to include “terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement.”

Copyright infringement is an area of enforcement that could turn out to be highly problematic and have a negative impact on speech. Europe has no “fair use” defense to claims of copyright infringement, and the new rules could potentially chill satire and political criticism.

Still to be worked out: what constitutes notice and what the financial penalties would be. And who gets to interpret whether the content violates the rules?

The draft regulations would need to be approved by the European Parliament and then a majority of EU member states. They would reportedly apply to all websites regardless of their size or traffic.


Nielsen links up with J.D. Power to create a new Auto Cloud

Audience measurement firm Nielsen has announced the launch of an Auto Cloud that is integrated with the car sales data held by research firm J.D. Power.

This is the first time that J.D. Power’s data is being made available for advertising and measurement.

This exclusive combination, the companies said, will let auto advertisers segment and target audiences for online and TV campaigns based on car-related data, including car styles, customer buying stage, brand affinities, geo-location, recent purchases and other factors.

[Read the full article on MarTech Today.]


Marketing Day: LinkedIn redesigns Groups, Google Location History, sales funnels & more

Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

From Marketing Land:

Recent Headlines From MarTech Today, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Marketing Technology:

Online Marketing News From Around The Web:


Expanded phrase match negatives: A script for misspellings

As paid search specialists, our strength lies in our ability to exert control over our keyword targeting. Every month or so, there are new threats to this control. We must be strong in battling this pay-per-click (PPC) kryptonite. We must build super automation to help save the world from bad PPC!

That is why we at Brainlabs (my company) have created another Google Ads script, this time to help you control the impact of negative keywords. The challenge with negative keywords is getting the balance right. Too little control, and you’ll include budget-draining mismatches. Too much, and you risk losing out on potential customers. To filter traffic for high- and low-value searches, you need just the right touch.

Getting the hang of it takes a bit of trial and error, but using a script to help you along doesn’t hurt. Today, I’m sharing an awesome script that will boost your phrase negative keyword matching by finding the ones you’re failing to catch due to misspellings.

Using negative keywords

We all know that without the right keyword, your ads won’t be triggered when a user enters a search term. Unlike preplanned keywords, search terms are liable to all sorts of inconsistencies.

Advertising platforms like Google Ads offer different ways to match keywords to search terms: broad, broad match modifier, phrase, and exact. Whichever you prefer to work with, you’ll know that planning ahead for human error can be difficult. Luckily, these match types can deal with close variants like misspellings, plurals, broad match, synonyms and related searches.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


The Google expanded text ad CTR lift that never was

Responsive search ads (RSA) are the hot paid search topic of the day. They give advertisers the ability to provide Google with up to 15 headlines and four descriptions that Google can then mix and match in testing for the most effective combination of ad copy.

In exchange for testing the new format, advertisers can show up to three headlines instead of two, as well as showing two 90-character descriptions instead of one 80-character description. Google recently announced the expansion of RSA formatting to regular text ads.

The jury is still out as to whether RSAs will have a meaningful impact on text ad click-through rates (CTRs), but the dust is more or less settled on the last major text ad update to take the pay-per-click (PPC) world by storm: expanded text ads (ETA).

adwords expanded text ads changes

New paid search blood might think nothing of the two 30-character headlines and 80 character description available through ETAs, but in (puts on spectacles) MY day, we had to make do with one 25-character headline and two 35-character description lines.

Despite ambitious expectations from marketers and Google alike, the results since ETAs became the text ad standard indicate the format hasn’t had quite the effect many predicted it would.

No sign of text ad CTR improvement since ETA deadline

ETAs entered the testing phase in early 2016, and advertisers could choose to load standard (which I’ll refer to as “OGAs” from here on for their status as the original text ad format) or expanded ads through January 31, 2017, at which time only expanded text ads could then be loaded.


Want more info on Paid Search? Check out our comprehensive PPC Guide – Nine chapters covering everything from account setup to automation and bid adjustments!

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.