Google Uses Location Tracking to Target Customers On-the-Go

Google is beta-testing a program that tracks consumers wherever they go using location data on their smartphones. It is the company’s answer to advertisers’ question: “How do we reach consumers who are on-the-go?” The program uses Android and iOS technology to track consumers’ locations and looks at their recent Google searches. Participating advertisers whose brick-and-mortar stores are nearby can pay to appear first in those listings.

The tracking technology works best on Android-powered phones, which have location tracking embedded into the software, according to DigiDay. But it can also track any iPhone user with a Google app for iOS open, even if it’s in the background and not being used.

“This information is then used to determine if that user visited a store and whether that store visit can be attributed to a search conducted in the app,” DigiDay reports. So Google can not only ensure advertisers are reaching their target customers, but it can tell the advertisers whether those customers did, in fact, visit a store.

The program depends on smartphone users opting in to location services on their phones, but Dan Auerbach, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said users might not realize opting into location services automatically opts them into location tracking as well.

According to the post, nearly 17 percent of Americans own an iOS smartphone, and 20.3 percent of the population are Android users.

In a related story, Slashdot reports that Google’s new Helpouts initiative is capitalizing on emerging interest in question-and-answer sites by allowing users to video-chat with experts in particular fields. The service is “capable of solving problems big (learning a new language, for example) and small (fixing that pesky garage door, or updating computer software); in addition to just chatting, users and helpers can collaboratively edit documents, share screens, and record conversations.”

“Our goal is simple: help people help each other,” explains Google. “We want to use the convenience and efficiency of the Web to enable everyone, no matter where they are or what time it is, to easily connect with someone who can help.”