Oh my, how badly Google wants your cookies

I haven’t had the time in the past couple days to really digest the attempted acquisition of DoubleClick by Google. Now it is sinking in. Google wants your cookies so that they can piece together as much of your browsing history as possible.

DoubleClick is the leading advertising company online, managing the display of advertising across many of the largest websites.

This complements Google’s AdSense network because DoubleClick reaches into many major websites where AdSense doesn’t exist. Google’s total awareness of user behavior will grow significantly as soon as cookie database for both companies becomes cross-referenced.

As Rich Tehrani of TMCnet puts it:

With the acquisition of DoubleClick, Google now has access to the cookies and subsequently browsing history of vast numbers of web users. It would be fair to say that greater than 85% of Internet users frequently come into contact with ads served by DoubleClick. In addition there are a vast number of sites serving up Google’s ads and running Google Analytics. Google perhaps now has access to the behavioral information of over 90% of web users.

Let’s look at all the behavioral data Google will have: DoubleClick history, AdSense history, search history, Google Analytics, toolbar data, links sent via Gmail, Web clippings in Google Notebook, purchase data from Google Checkout. I’m getting dizzy listing them all. Let’s just say that it is a lot of data for the largest data-mining operation in mankind’s history to chew on.

A big, big blow to Yahoo

Yahoo has bet the farm that the massive stores of behavioral data that they have amassed are the critical resources that are going to give them an advantage over Google in the future. Yet if this acquisition goes through, Google has moved a lot closer to catching up.

The future of Search is in social behavior analysis

Google is no doubt working feverishly to develop and patent algorithms that can make sense of all of this data and boil it down into subcontexts that can be used as criteria for rankings in Google search. The future of search is in analyzing social behavior and using predictive technology to ascertain what you are looking for. The deeper they can profile an individual, the easier they are to please (and make money off of via targeted advertising and product placements, of course).

When search algorithms have become completely enmeshed in behavioral metrics it will render this kind of stuff quaint and obsolete.

Can Google keep you from tossing your cookies?

What’s the biggest threat to Google’s stockpiles of data? You.

comScore announced today that cookie-based analytics overstates the size of website audiences by as much as 250%. That’s a much bigger number than most people expected. The reason for this is that a relatively small number of people have a habit of dumping their cookies a lot. This means that each time they visit a website they are counted as a new visitor.

The real question is, how much of this needs to occur before the data on social behavior becomes too poisoned to make any practical use of? Once people begin to get more nervous about one company amassing this kind of data, will they become even more eager to toss the cookies out?

Reading the tea leaves

My prediction is that eventually Google buys an antivirus company and begins to provide the best anti-virus/anti-spyware software in the industry, free to all takers.

And that this software will have a warning message that will make users think twice about clearing their cookies, or allow them to opt out of having Google cookies cleared.

They may also make their services more and more difficult to use if you clear out your cookies frequently to encourage people to leave them alone so that they come to think of cookies that don’t expire until 2038 as a good idea.