It's been nearly three years since Google played an April Fool's joke on us gullible media types and other Google rumor mongers by telling us it had discovered a way to access the Internet through the toilet. As I wrote then:
Think of the challenge for Google: trying to come up with a story so outrageous that no one would actually believe it for its annual April Fool's prank. Problem is, trade journalists, tech watchers and conspiracy theorists are ready to believe anything they hear about the search behemoth.
Google's press release revealed it was just a joke, with passages such as one mentioning the service would be especially handy for "those users who, like Larry (Page, Google co-founder and president) himself, do much of their best thinking in the bathroom."
Some creative types at current.com's SuperNews! think the idea has a dark side, one they played up in a funny video about the Google Toilet. A smooth-talking animated toilet tells a hapless user it uses "data mining technology that can sift through sh*t to deliver the ultimate targeted ads." It also, the toilet adds, "automatically updates your Facebook page with toxicology reports."
Funny, right? Except maybe the joke is on us, considering the list of privacy-related stories offered up by IT Business Edge blogger Lora Bentley, including one in which Google gave some Gmail messages from former Bear Stearns manager Matthew Tannin to the feds, despite the fact Tannin had closed his Gmail account.
Google, the undisputed king of search advertising, obviously would like to get into the targeted advertising game. Google likes to refer to it as "interest-based" advertising, rather than behavioral advertising. That's because the behavioral term is "vague" and "gets lumped in with questionable practices," a Google spokeswoman told Network World last March.
Whether you call it "interest-based," "behaviorial" or "targeted," this kind of advertising understandably makes people nervous. As Lora wrote two weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission is trying to create a regulatory framework for Internet advertising.