Startups Adapt to Shifting Privacy Standards

Two steps forward, one step back. That’s what it can feel like to be a technology provider in the location marketing space right now, struggling to strike a balance between the demands of brand marketers and growing concerns over consumer privacy and data regulation.

That push and pull is challenging vendors in the location marketing space. At the same time their firms should be seeing exponential growth, data regulations—including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s forthcoming Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—are establishing new rules for innovation.

But some companies are embracing the regulation as a challenge to innovate in its own right.

In the Wake of Spam Reports, Google Focuses on Brand and Small Business Engagement

Google’s calculated risk in creating a low bar for verification works out fine in a world where most business owners simply want to gain legitimate access to their own listings, and most businesses do operate within those ethical boundaries. But as we’ve seen elsewhere at this stage in the evolution of social networks, fraud and deceptive manipulation have become a kind of ghost in the machine, dominating darker sectors of the local marketplace and creating an atmosphere of distrust that may eventually prove more broadly contagious. 

All of this is only possible when lots of activity is consolidated on a few platforms. Just as fake accounts attempting to engineer the 2016 election thrived in the vast and complex Facebook ecosystem, so too has Google’s dominance in local attracted its own horde of opportunists, drawn like moths to its flame. Indeed, fraud in local listings is just the latest in a long history of attempts, from link farms to keyword spam, to manipulate loopholes in Google’s regulations and algorithms.

Google’s Fake Listings Problem Gets More Attention—and May Spur Regulation

Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.

At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.

5 Privacy-Focused Data Marketplaces

Just 27% of adults feel like they have “some control” over how their personal data is used by mobile apps and services, according to a recent survey by Mobile Ecosystem Forum. The desire to have more say over how personal data is used is leading to a new technology vertical, as next-generation data brokers put together marketplaces where consumers can offer up their own data to brands in exchange for cash and other lucrative incentives.

Here are five examples of services that consumers are using to take control of the data they share with advertisers and keep their private information private.

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp?

Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.

If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.

Consumers Still Do Not Understand How Companies Use Their Data

More than one year after the implementation of GDPR in Europe and with CCPA looming, consumers still have no idea how and why companies like Google and Facebook collect their data. That’s according to a global survey by mobile marketing firm Ogury, the largest of its kind to ask consumers about their understanding of marketing and privacy.

Nearly 40% of respondents in both Europe and the US were ignorant of what GDPR is. But more significant is that 52% of consumers report not understanding how their data is used.

Behind the Rise of Data Transparency

As technological capabilities accelerate and data regulations increase, brands should home in on data privacy. Focusing on data transparency will ensure you stay out of legal trouble while also earning more loyal, trusting customers. Consumers understand that you have data — it’s how you use it and share your practices that can make or break these important relationships.

June Focus: Pursuing Privacy

The privacy movement will have ripple effects throughout the media and advertising worlds that Street Fight covers. In fact, you could argue that privacy issues are most sensitive whenever we’re talking about content or ads that are targeted based on the user’s location. So how is the location-based media world dealing with these shifts? This is the question we’ll strive to answer throughout the month.

Foursquare Acquires Placed, Announces $150M in Funding

Foursquare and Placed are location tech’s new power couple.

The location intelligence firm is acquiring Placed, which had previously been bought by Snap for its top-rate online-to-offline attribution solution, and the two will offer one of the most powerful attribution solutions in the location industry, to be called Placed powered by Foursquare. 

As ad tech faces tougher times and a privacy-driven crackdown on data collection and ad targeting practices, more mergers and acquisitions are likely to transform the industry’s terrain. Teaming up and stockpiling as much first-party data as possible, thereby eliminating the need for less compliant modes of data harvesting, will boost the longevity of some firms while others flounder.

To Share or Not to Share: How Gamification is Swaying the Modern Consumer’s Loyalty

Although 94% of C-suite leaders consider customers’ data to be of paramount importance, privacy continues to be a hot-button issue. Data privacy practices have come under increased scrutiny with the passing of regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation, aimed at protecting individuals from the misuse and exploitation of personal information. Even as consumers continue to debate the tradeoff between convenience and control, one thing is clear—they are craving a more intuitive and personalized experience. How, then, can companies reconcile the differences and walk the tightrope as they acquire a 360-degree view of their audience?

Gamification is one path forward.

Visual Search Moves Beyond Experimentation and Into Prime Time

After years of experimentation and broad discussions about how visual search would someday take hold, it’s clear that the future has arrived. Visual search has moved into the mainstream, and companies like Pinterest, Instagram, and even Google are paving the way for consumers to engage more deeply with the products they find online.

As visual search moves into the mainstream, questions are intensifying over what impact the medium will have on SEO and traditional search metrics.

Who’s Winning the Reviews Race? How Do We Define Winning?

In their latest Street Fight conversation, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm examine the state of the local reviews space and assess the reasons for Google’s dominance. “For me, the question of the future is whether Google’s behaviors will impact the remaining vertical sites over the next 10 years,” Mike writes.

To Understand the Tech Industry’s Responsibilities, We Must Think Differently About Humanity

These questions would be preludes to less abstract ones that will seem more familiar to the creatures of Silicon Valley. Is Facebook responsible if people use WhatsApp and Messenger to spread false news and incite genocide? Is that just the fault of (heinous) people being (heinous) people or should the platforms be held accountable? As for privacy and data collection, what rights do people have to safeguard their information from the communications platforms they use? What does data scraped from Google search or Amazon’s facial recognition technology have to do with our identities? Can data be human?

How to Survive the Coming Data Privacy Tsunami

Just as we have gotten used to the idea that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a fact of life and have made modifications in our data collection procedures, the Brazil General Data Protection Law (LGDP), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and waves of proposed new data privacy laws are swirling in the calm preceding a privacy tsunami heading our way. All these privacy regulations share a number of commonalities, and by addressing them now, you will be on high ground as the waves begin to pound.

As GDPR’s One-Year Anniversary Approaches, Where Are We Now?

One year in, it’s clear that the full impact of GDPR still hasn’t been felt. The regulation is structured in a way that puts less pressure on large companies than smaller businesses, and that’s something that regulators will have to continue sorting out. But the changes Europe’s law portends are undeniable: Privacy legislation is coming to the United States, and the data collection practices that made many Silicon Valley pioneers rich will never be quite so unbridled again.

5 Visual Marketing Platforms for Brands

Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay are just a few online retailers with new visual search tools, and social media platforms like Snapchat are letting users take pictures of items to buy on Amazon and Pinterest. By using enterprise-level visual marketing platforms, brands can capitalize on their visibility across the web and drive more revenue from the images and other content their customers are creating.

Here are five visual marketing platforms that brands are using right now.

Does Influencer Marketing Have a Transparency Problem?

Although the average share of budgets spent on influencer marketing is just 10%, that figure is growing as visual platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest see explosive growth.

The problem? Brands are often focusing on misleading vanity metrics in an attempt to justify those investments. For example, many marketers track follower counts as a primary indicator for determining brand and influencer partnerships. Growing evidence shows that follower counts do not equate to true impressions or reach data, giving brands a false sense of how their campaigns are performing.

At I/O, Google Offers a New Vision for Local Search

The notion of “helping you get things done,” emphasized by Sundar Pichai in his I/O keynote, provides a through-line for many of the event’s announcements. It struck me watching the presentations how thoroughly Google has become a consumer electronics company, a marketer of devices where search is more a central feature than a standalone product. Google, in other words, has become thoroughly dedicated to marketing its famous search capabilities in the context of devices that help you perform daily tasks. In the process, it is transforming local search and how we relate to the world with electronic devices.

Visual Search and Local: A Match Made in Mountain View

Though visual search challengers such as Snapchat and Pinterest could shine in niche use cases such as fashion items, Google will rule as the best all-around utility for visual search. It has the deepest tech stack, and the substance (knowledge graph) to be useful beyond just a flashy novelty for identifying things visually.

The name of the game now is to get users to adopt it. Google Lens won’t be a silver bullet and will shine in a few areas where Google is directing users, such as pets and flowers. But it will really shine in product search, which happens to be where monetization will eventually come into the picture.

Beyond SEO: How to Reframe the Local Marketing Conversation

“I am looking for a language framework that helps business understand that the idea of ranking only makes sense in the context of not just getting more customers but also keeping them. While businesses might want a floodgate of leads, there are many things that they could be doing that would be cost-effective and productive,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm in their latest Street Fight discussion.