What if tracking cookies didn't just track your web activity—they tracked your every movement and reported it back to advertisers? A program Google is beta-testing does just that, ad industry sources tell Digiday. The program would track consumers' smartphone GPS data even if they didn't have any Google apps open, sending along info so specific that Google could tell if you were in a specific store. It would then use that information to sell ads, and verify their effectiveness.
If, for example, you searched for a place to eat, restaurants that were physically nearby could bid to show up as Google's top ad. If you went inside, Google could report that back to the restaurant. Google already collects location data from Android devices on a nearly constant basis, assuming users have enabled Location Services. Tracking iOS customers is a little trickier, but many use Google apps, and most don't realize that apps continue running even after they've clicked out of them. (Read more Google stories.)