in Business & Marketing, Digital & Tech

To get, you must first give…

With the recent IoT attacks and policy updates from Google to track personal devices and use this data to improve advertising I thought it was time to publish the below peace of writing, which I wrote earlier this year but never got around to posting it. Here is the unchanged version and I hope to be able to follow it up with some more recent events. This article started my theory on the meaningful connections model, which I have developed extensively since and will be writing about in the near future.


Meaningful Connections


Get ready for an age of connected devices and meaningful personalized experiences – That is, if you are willing to share your data!

The online landscape is quickly becoming a complicated and fragmented one as the Internet of Things (IoT) evolves and businesses look at tapping into its wealth of opportunity. Technology companies such as Google need to keep connecting the dots between devices, locations, people, interests and even intentions (predictive) in order to deliver the meaningful connections we all so much desire when using their services. Whether it be access to timely meaningful information (eg. The weather forecast in your area), access to cloud software solutions (eg. File storage, email, agenda’s), access to a device or person (eg. Chat, VOIP calls) or even access to a product or service via targeted advertising, we all seek “meaningful connections” that result in meaningful and often personalized experiences when connected to the web. After all, who wants a web that returns little value, poor experiences and unmeaningful connections? If this were the case, the web would no longer exist today.


“To get, you must give.”


There is a catch however! To get, you must give. And this is where I am going to with this writing. In order for technology companies to be able to provide you an extraordinary experiences that will keep you coming back for more, they must collect your data and use this to deliver a meaningful personalized experience. One of the best examples is a brand we all know too well: Google.

Google is under increasing regulatory pressure to respect their user’s privacy and more than ever before are required to ensure that their users accept and understand their terms of service. They do this in the form of user policy updates across the range of their different products and services. Users need to accept these terms in order to make use of Google services.

Google is also starting to block or at least make it increasingly harder for its users to use their services if policy terms are not accepted. Pop-up overlays such as the one below are starting to appear to Google users preventing them from using Google services such as performing a search.




“We’ll need you to do this in order to continue using Google services…”


I have been using Google for 18 years on a daily basis since it launched in 1998. Never before have I experienced such an intrusive policy update from Google and never before from the Google SERPS pages (Search Engine Results Pages). I use many different browsers and devices and this is the second time in a 2 week timeframe I was presented this same policy update. The first was in Chrome, and the screened example is in Firefox.

I was blocked from using their search engine and seeing their search results unless I accepted their terms which I have accepted many times before. It’s never been this “do or die” scenario before. Google is under increasing regulatory pressure to respect user privacy and to ensure that its users are clearly aware of what they are accepting and that they have “complete” control in allowing Google to access different types of information via Google account settings.

The details of the policy update unfolded as I continued to review and accept the terms:



And the dropdown:


For Google to keep its competitive advantage and differentiate itself from old and new competitors it needs to understand 4 critical factors:


  • Our device
  • Our location
  • Our interests
  • Our intentions


This 4th factor “our intentions” is where Google and other technology companies see the future of search.


“What if Google answered our questions before we even get a chance to ask them?”


A scary thought to many of us right?

Well it’s already happening and it’s only going to get bigger and more “in our faces” so to speak. Google now aims to bring you information, answers, advice, warnings and much more without you even having to ask for it and try to intelligently guess your intentions. How? Through collecting your data (device, location, interests – a lot of meaningful data fits into these 3 categories). For those that have not made the link yet: yes, this is Big Data! And we are at the very start of a digital revolution and paradigm shift in technology which lies at the nexus between technology and data, our data, our behavior!

But it gets more complicated! With the IoT upon us and growing at a rate where IP addresses, Internet protocols and security issues can’t keep up with the explosion of devices we are connecting to the web; regulators, policy makers, politicians and the public are becoming increasingly data savvy and concerned at what this digital revolution could mean to our lives in the not so distant future, which seems to be accelerating towards us with the advancement of technology and the way we collect and use data.

Technology companies need our data to survive and thrive. For those that choose to not allow them access, the result may be a pretty unmeaningful experience. For those that allow access, the sky’s the limit. But one should never forget that we have a choice in the data we choose to share and the data we choose not to share. It is the responsibility of the technology companies, regulators and policymakers to ensure that we are sufficiently informed about the choices we have and the control we possess when it comes to sharing our data.

After all, meaningful connections can only be achieved if data is shared between 2 devices, regardless of the shape or form of the data. Blocking data sharing means blocking meaning between connections.


Chris Baldwin, PhD – Strategic Director Traffic4u
Many thanks to Justus Wever and Mark van Kasteren for critically reviewing this writing and Richard Smoorenburg for your love and support of the meaningful connections movement.

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