Google Becomes a member of the Nielsen "family." Threats to our Privacy as we watch TV

Few readers may recall when Norman Lear’s “Mary Hartman” realized that she and her fellow patients at a psychiatric facility watched a Nielsen ratings-connected TV set. Lear’s critique that the TV rating system that has determined success for the TV business is deeply flawed and–frankly, crazy– is still true. But Google (and Doubleclick’s) move to monitor and analyze our viewing on TV and other platforms is just as insane–if we want to protect our privacy. “Google has been reporting millions of second-by-second data points to its TV Ads clients,” explains MediaDaily News. “Ultimately, Google expects TV’s interactive capabilities to improve to the point that it is generating the same kind of immediacy and backchannel as the Internet.” [from an interview with Mike Steib, director of Google TV Ads].

We doubt cable and DBS subscribers recognize that they are now involuntary members of the Nielsen/Google data tracking combine. Here’s how Multichannel News reports on the deal: “By combining Nielsen demographic data with aggregated set-top box data, Google plans to provide advertisers and agencies with comprehensive information…We have millions of set-top boxes that belong to EchoStar from which EchoStar is pulling data and is providing it to us for the Google TV Ad system: It’s a lot of data points,” Steib said…Advertisers can better understand exactly how their ad is performing and make near real-time changes to their TV advertising campaigns to deliver better ads to viewers, according to Google.

“One of the things we haven’t been able to provide to our advertisers to date, when we report back the very next day the impressions that they’ve received from the set-top boxes, we have not yet reported demographics and audience composition,” he said. “We are now going to be able to make that information available to our advertisers”…Google and Nielsen claim that as a result of their new partnership, this is the first time that advertisers and agencies will have such a level of detailed measurement available in a single place and at such a large scale.”

We hope Congress and the FTC will step in to prevent the entire TV viewing population from becoming involuntary drafted into the Nielsen/Google data collection, profiling, and targeting system.

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