At What Price Privacy?
Recently, Google has rolled out the option to use a Secure form of search at httpS://google.com.
While certainly all the buzz about Facebook’s inability to secure user information has created a new and intense look at web privacy, we have to wonder if we’re heading down the path of “unintended consequences” for increased security.
For example, if the average consumer decides to regularly use SSL protected search, the webmaster of the store or blog they are visiting won’t receive valuable information about that visit, such as what advertisement the visitor clicked on, or what website they were referred over by.
Yes, this adds some additional anonymity for the visitor. But what is it going to cost them in the long run?
Less Knowledge Equals Higher Customer Acquisition Costs
If a webmaster doesn’t know which of his ads are working, he has no way to associate a return on investment to that ad spend. That’s going to result in a lot of trial and error. And if the store is spending more money on advertising as a result, you can be sure that at some point, the consumer is going to end up paying a lions share if not all of that bill.
More Knowledge Equals a Better User Experience
Webmasters also use the data afforded to us to enhance your user experience. So if 1,000 people come to my site in May, looking for Blue Widgets (based on the search term they typed in), and we only carry red and green ones, you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to go out and get us some blue widgets to sell you the next time you’re on our site.
That, my friends, is called customer service.
More Power (Read: All Power) to Google
Out of the box, the SSL search will prevent Google Analytics from functioning to it’s highest design standards. We can assume though that Google would find a way to give it’s AdWords advertisers and Google Analytics users another means of getting this data. After all, Google still knows what you typed in that search box. They’re just trending towards being unwilling to share it.
So end game is this: Google Analytics could be “fixed” to still share this info, by attaching it more deeply to the Google databases. But… All of Google’s analytics space competitors are left holding… well… nothing. They will be unable to present the data.
Want to know how the competitors are feeling about this? Have a look. Clicky Pretty Much Hates It
If you’re a webmaster, be prepared to do a little more guessing again soon.
If you’re a consumer, be prepared to absorb some additional advertising costs in your retail prices.
If you’re a Google Analytics competitor? Just… be prepared.