Google’s new application called Latitude is just one of a growing number of efforts that help extend social networking into the mobile space.Â But its role is also to help further develop Google’s online marketing and advertising apparatus into what will be a very lucrative mobile space.Â After all, Google CEO Eric Schmidt declared in 2007 that the biggest opportunity online was “Mobile, mobile, mobile — it’s probably the most wide open space out there right now. Also, local. Most search companies don’t take advantage of the local data inherent in the web.”Â Last year, in an interview with a German newspaper, Mr. Schmidt explained that “The next big wave in advertising is the mobile internet.”
Latitude fits in with Google’s plans to expand its mobile marketing business, and this should raise both privacy and consumer protection issues. Â Reporters covering the online ad business spotted Latitude as a move by Google to broaden its mobile marketing clout.Â For example, Laurie Sullivan from MediaPost noted that:
“Google came one step closer Wednesday to providing brands with a one-to-one mobile marketing and ad tool that speaks directly to consumers. The company, which dominates in the mobile mapping space, launched an add-on social network service called Latitude.
And while the service clearly aims to focus on social networking–connecting friends and family by sharing their whereabouts–the application could easily adopt mobile marketing applications that target users with special deals and ads at specific locations such as in front of Starbucks or McDonald’s as they drive or walk down the street…Industry insiders are not convinced the service will stop with a social network service to connect with friends and family. The social network is the next logical step for Google to further its mobile services–mapping, networking and advertising–but the technology makes location-based advertising a real possibility… said Dave Tan, VP of content solutions at Resolution Media, an Omnicom Media Group company. “Mobile advertising tethered to GPS/cell-tower based location information has tremendous opportunities…”Â Â
Writing on AdAge.com, one marketer explained that “Google’s merging of a utility like Google maps with social networking is a great opportunity for marketers. Until now, social apps like those on Facebook and MySpace were used when primarily when one wasn’t doing anything else, making advertising to that person difficult for driving call to action. With Google Latitude, social networking is integrated into tools that people use while doing something or seeking something.”
Of interest too was the announcement this week by Google Health partner Anvita Health that it was introducing “a new mobile viewer for Google Health that is built on the Android platform..The Anvita Mobile Viewer enables users of Google Health to view their Google Health profile data from Android-powered devices…This allows for on-demand and real-time view of their medical records anytime and anywhere and provides for more flexibility when visiting physicians, pharmacists, and other care provide…Anvita Health provides innovative health care analytics to its customers who, in aggregate, manage more than 50 million lives.”
Google should acknowledge whether Latitude will eventually be linked to marketing, and also if it is collecting any analytical data when users agree to use it.Â For example, what kind of mobile health marketing does Google plan to do, and will it be connected to Latitude?Â One of the frustrating things about Google is that it always attempts to frame what it does for the public as some beneficent gift.Â It’s privacy PR video for Latitude describes the service as a “fun, useful feature.”Â It should be more forthright about its plans for mobile marketing, and should develop a system which clearly informs users how the data will be collected and used.Â Google should also more closely examine how to empower mobile users so they have real control of what data is collected–including what is used for marketing and advertising purposes.Â But we are working to get the FTC to actually develop safeguards for this mobile marketplace, including ensuring “opt-in” really gives users knowledge and control.
PS:Â It never hurts to see what Google is telling major advertisers they can do via its DoubleClick Mobile: “Now publishers can deploy mobile advertising with the same confidence and control as online display ads…gives you all the power you need to deliver truly effective mobile campaigns. When creating your ad, you can make use of link text, jump pages and roadblock pairing to deliver greater impact…DoubleClick Mobile enables you to manage and report on your mobile advertising campaign through every click. Weâ€™ve made it easy to set campaign dates, define mobile specific targeting criteria and get full reports on all mobile campaigns.”