Google’s tracking cookies could be breaching the law. How will this affect your online marketing?

Google’s tracking cookies could be breaching the law. How will this affect your online marketing?
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Three British internet users are currently attempting to sue Google over possible violations of privacy. In 2014, the High Court ruled that there is a case to be answered and that the UK’s court system is the appropriate place for the trial to be conducted, despite Google being based in the USA. Naturally, Google appealed against the decision, but their appeal has recently been dismissed, meaning that the search engine giant will have to confront their accusers in court.

The complainants believe that Google placed cookies designed to track their online search habits on their computers without their explicit consent and that this data was then used to provide targeted advertising. They assert that this is a breach of their right to privacy and, more specifically, of an EU directive that requires companies to obtain permission before placing software on users’ computers.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal both clearly believe that there is substantial evidence against Google; if there were no grounds for a trial, it’s highly doubtful the case would have made it to this stage.

The decision is bad news for online marketers who rely heavily on targeted advertising. The complainants are yet to successfully sue Google, but the ruling that they are legally entitled to do so could put search engines off using tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are a key tool used by search engines to deliver targeted advertising based on users’ habits on the web. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them… provided the companies using them obtain users’ permission before putting them on their hard-drives. However, search engine companies are unlikely to want to run the risk of being sued for breaches of privacy and may start avoiding the broader use of cookies.

The good news is that the decision won’t affect online marketing strategies that rely more on search engine optimisation. SEO strategies can focus on making sure your content is seen by those who are actively pursuing related web searches rather than relying on advertisements directed at potential customers. If you’re running a business, the best response to the court ruling is to beef up your SEO and PPC strategies and try to minimise your reliance on targeted advertising before it loses some of its efficacy.