Marketing Opportunity - or an intrusion?

Digital marketing, Innovation | Andrew Hatcher | 12 August 2014

I was intrigued by this as it shows that data we give away knowingly can be used for secondary reasons


I was travelling on the train to London the other week and as usual when I boarded I had a quick look at my email to see if anything had happened in the interceding 2 minutes since I last looked when standing on the platform. Now I am no tech geek nor a complete Luddite but I was very surprised to see that Google now had confirmed where I had parked my car. Now this was news to me as although I had parked and had also paid for parking by phone I hadn’t as far as I was aware used a Google service to do either.

parking card

parking card

So a little bit of investigation revealed that Google had generated this information by deducing it from other activities. Essentially the gps (or sensor as Google calls it) on my phone had been giving away information about
my movement. Up to the point of parking I had been moving steadily, presumably at a car-like pace, but then it had detected that I had stopped and I can only suppose deduced that I had parked. It didn’t seem to change when I was on the train as that type of travel presumably has a different profile.

I was intrigued by this as it shows that data we give away knowingly can be used for secondary reasons and in terms of marketing this might throw up a range of interesting opportunities and potentially a set of equally wide ranging worries about data protection.

What other more embedded behaviour could we deduce from data that is give away for a specific purpose but them used for a separate one? The Google Now parking app happily told me that I can look at my parking ‘card’ history and also let me know how far I was from my work although how it new the location was ‘work’ was interesting too.

If the phone gives away not only my position, but whether I am moving and how long I stay still for, what does that does do for location based marketing services. Could it assume that if my position is near a Costa and I have stopped for 20 minutes that I am having a coffee? Could it then associate my profile with the person that I am having coffee with?

I was both intrigued and happily surprised as I sat on the train realising that innovation is always just around the corner and can still surprise us when we least expect it.

Footnote – you can turn the service off!


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