Gmail + Chat: Cool or Creepy?

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Personalization’s one of my favorite themes to write about because it evokes very personal responses. Additionally, it ties into some heady issues, such as how much trust we’ll place in a third party to respect our personal information in return for a richer experience. At a basic level, we trust banks with our money in return for the security provided and benefits of being able to best access our savings. We trust signing up with phone companies for the convenience of connecting with others, and we expect that they won’t listen to our conversations (though if they really want to hear me pestering my sister and ordering lo mein, they can go right ahead). This ties into a slew of issues involving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Personalization is connected to how we express our personal selves, which thus ties into privacy as well. Roe vs. Wade, the Patriot Act, and gay marriage are all connected here.

The column this week adresses a much smaller slice of the issue, and I tried to prevent myself from getting off on too many tangents (fortunately, I have no such limits on the blog). I look at what it means for Gmail to archive Google Talk conversations:

Almost any type of targeting and personalization has a degree of creepiness to it from the consumer perspective. iTunes recommending music based on songs purchased through iTunes was acceptable; recommending music based on one’s library stored on the desktop generated a mini-uproar. MSN targeting paid search ads based on demographics of registered users is fine, but any search engine targeting based on user behavior on other sites will make some users uncomfortable. Yahoo Mail banner ads are a fair price to pay for the free account, but Gmail’s targeting text ads based on message content was panned during initial trials.

Now, Google Talk and Gmail are becoming one and the same. Cool or creepy? Both. But the biggest issue for marketers is a lack of control over where their ads appear.

More at MediaPost. Your thoughts welcome.