The Google-TiVo Deal: What It Means For You

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Google-Tivo Ad Data
Google and TiVo are teaming up for a new deal that'll put your clicking habits into the hands of advertisers. Before you grab the nearest "privacy violation" placard, though, check out the specifics of this arrangement -- it's probably far less invasive than what you're expecting.

Google and TiVo's Ad Data Deal

The Google-TiVo ad data deal, announced on Tuesday, is described as an "audience research agreement." In simple terms, TiVo will share anonymous viewing trends collected from its base of subscribers with Google. Google will use that data to help its advertisers understand who they're reaching -- and who they aren't -- when buying television ads through the company's AdWords TV Ads system.

"None of this is being used to actually target an individual," explains Google spokesperson Eric Obenzinger. "It's more about delivering more accurate reporting back to advertisers so they can inform their future budgeting decisions."

So what does the data actually include? First and foremost, absolutely nothing about who you are.

"When we say that this is all anonymous data, we mean that it is literally anonymous in the strictest definition of the term," says Todd Juenger, vice president & general manager of TiVo Audience Research & Measurement. "We don't collect anything about where it came from."

What TiVo does collect is a log of what commercials you watched and what commercials you skipped. It's like an advanced ratings system, taking TiVo's DVR functionality into account.

"We know that some set-top box out there pressed play on a certain network at a certain time -- then we know they hit fast-forward, hit pause, and hit play," Juenger says. "You do that across a million and a half set-top boxes, and you get a collective picture of what percentage of people were watching a certain commercial at a given time."

Google's TV Ad Platform

Unlike with Google's more widely discussed Web-based advertising platforms, the data collected by TiVo won't result in any information being tied to your account or any contextual ads popping up on your system. In fact, the program is actually no different from what Google was already doing within its TV Ads division.

As Google's TV Ads site explains, advertisers using the platform already had access to second-by-second data collected by set-top boxes. Up until now, Google's Obenzinger says, that data was collected solely through a partnership with Dish Network. With the new deal, TiVo's data will be combined with Dish's to give advertisers a more detailed picture.

So, that's the truth about the Google-TiVo advertising deal -- not quite as scary as some preliminary stories might have led you to believe. If you're still flying your "Google Is Evil" flag, though, fear not: The power to opt out is completely in your hands. Just head over to TiVo's Web site and sign in to your account to change your privacy preferences.

And for a detailed look at Google's other ad-related ventures, click over to "Inside Google's Advertising Empire." Your personal tour awaits.

JR Raphael is co-founder of geek-humor site eSarcasm. You can keep up with him on Twitter: @jr_raphael.

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