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Private Glancer

What made Google do such a big turnaround on their privacy policy?

What’s up with Google lately? First, they release standards that make third-party cookies useless, and then a few weeks later they reaffirm their commitment to stop tracking users in their Chrome browser. That’s huge, as anyone who has used their browser to search “Mandalorian” only to have every subsequent web ad targeted to Baby Yoda socks, shirts, and scented candles knows.

If you aren’t a marketer, chances are you took these announcements as very good news. But what made Google do such a big turnaround on their privacy policy?

Not invited to any Alphabet parties, I can only guess that they recognize the public’s attitude toward privacy is shifting. And while the cybersecurity kind of privacy that protects valuable data is vital, that is not the kind of privacy I am discussing here. No, I am talking about using search histories, spoken voice commands, and any other interaction with digital devices that results in captured information being used to serve up targeted marketing experiences that, while often useful, still feel creepy (and, if using shared devices, can ruin someone’s birthday surprise).

Still, surveys have shown that people are not opposed to sharing their private information for a better, more personalized experience. The key seems to be that the decision needs to be in the users’ hands to decide what gets shared and what does not.

According to a recent survey conducted by Entrust and reported on by HelpNetSecurity, “64 percent of consumers are at least somewhat willing to share personal information with an app in exchange for more relevant, personalized, and/or convenient services. And 83 percent of consumers are at least somewhat comfortable with using or storing biometric data with apps and services.”

Which is good news for integrators, as smart home AI requires that kind of personal info if it is going to truly enhance the lives of homeowners. But that same survey also revealed that consumers are very concerned their data could wind up in the wrong hands, with 79 percent of respondents at least somewhat concerned about their data privacy.

This makes the mission to collect and protect user data while being as transparent with clients as possible and avoiding any kind of tracking that could appear “creepy.” We have a good example of how this could look thanks to, which saw this need to collect data and also protect it early on when they promised to never sell client info and also keep as much local as they possibly can.

Nearly two years ago, the ever-ahead-of-the-curve Henry Clifford wrote a Resi blog entitled, “Do Our Customers Care About Privacy?” where he talked about the growing segment of clients who are concerned about privacy and what the integrator could do about it. His advice then is even more relevant now: “What do we do when we encounter the privacy-minded client? We’ll talk about our own privacy policy and about solutions that don’t sell their data.”

Even with Google backtracking on, well, tracking, the DIY market will not be able to offer peace of mind regarding privacy the way the custom installation market can.