Call Tracking & Privacy Issues with Google Voice

I have several online marketing clients and most of them are brick and mortar businesses looking to increase traffic to their websites and ultimately generate more sales, leads, appointments, etc. The beauty of online marketing is that it’s the most trackable form of advertising since you can track where your visitors came from, how long they were on the site, what keyword they used on a search engine, and so on with web analytics tools like Google Analytics. However, what happens if the ultimate goal is to get the user to actually visit the store or place of business to complete the transaction? It’s not exactly cut and dry when it comes to tracking those users.

One of the first “next” steps of tracking offline customers is tracking phone calls generated through your website or online advertising campaigns. For example, all of the visitors that came to your website from a banner ad on another website will see a specific number, and all visitors that came from the Google AdWords campaign will see a different phone number. We can easily track that the first phone number generated 5 phone calls and the second phone number generated 25 phone calls. You can also narrow it down to having a different phone number for every keyword in the Google AdWords campaign, but I’ll keep it simple for the purpose of this post.

One of my clients is a specialty law firm who wanted to know more about exactly where the phone calls were coming from. I suggested setting up call tracking by purchasing multiple phone numbers. The person I work with asked about using Google Voice numbers, which are extremely cheap and easily tie in with other Google products like AdWords, GMail, Google Analytics, etc. However, she brought up a good point – What about Privacy concerns? And not just concerns about the fear of customers finding out their phone calls are being recorded and tracked, but what exactly is Google planning to do with the phone call data? This could be a serious problem in terms of actually violating privacy laws for businesses that deal with sensitive information like law firms and doctors offices.

It is no secret that Google provides the free services that it does in exchange for tracking usage to better target advertising to the users of the service. And for the most part, most users are willing to sacrifice a little privacy to use free products like GMail, Google Analytics, Google Docs, YouTube, etc. But for businesses like law firms, doctors offices, health insurance companies, and even government agencies, they may want to take some extra time to really consider the pros and cons of using Google’s free services, including Google Voice, especially if the risk is that they could end up violating privacy laws in their respective industries.

I have done a little research on Google Voice and privacy concerns, but I haven’t had much luck for the most part. Does anyone have any insight about using Google Voice for a law firm, or if there are any other call tracking solutions that have a better policy for managing privacy concerns?

Comments

One Response to “Call Tracking & Privacy Issues with Google Voice”

  1. Jason Smithson on January 11th, 2011 3:49 pm

    Sounds like your specialty law firm needs a specialty law firm. I certainly wouldn’t suggest taking advice solely from the Internet at large about anything that could result in legal liability. Of course, I’m also not a lawyer.

    That said, Google has a policy of not allowing personally identifiable information into Analytics. I have not yet used the Google Voice integration options but I’m fairly certain I read that it works the same way, that is, there would only be information in Analytics that there was a phone based conversion, not the individual number.

    Of course you can go in to the call log in Google Voice and match some of this information up by hand but that is no different than any other phone system which keeps track of Caller ID information, which is to say almost all of them. That the data is in Google Voice instead of some PBX or on your phone bill shouldn’t matter.

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