Google’s Laser-Guided Missiles

PCMag.com has a good summary of a lunch Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt gave to journalists recently. He addresses a lot of the Google-related hot topics these days.
On the Writely acquisition, Schmidt brushed off theories that it was a play to compete with Microsoft Office. He said the real purpose of the acquisition was part of Google’s strategy to “collect and organize the world’s data.”
This is pretty frightening to me. The next logical question is: why does Google want to do this? So they can gain a better understanding of who we are, what we want and what we care about. Which begs the next question: why does Google want to collect and organize the things that matter to us? To make them readily accessible for a fee from anywhere? Or is it to deliver more targeted results throughout the Google experience? For example, I search elsewhere away from my documents; Google connects the dots between the content of my documents and my search terms.
I can’t help but worry about this insatiable desire to consume, digest, index, study, analyze, extrapolate from and finally act upon the behaviors and artifacts that make up my life. In a word, it’s creepy.
Luckily, we have the option to not use Google. I’m already making choices today. I don’t use Gmail. I don’t log in to personalized Google. No toolbar or desktop installed. Just search. When I walk into Best Buy, I don’t want their sales people knowing a damn thing about me except for what I want them to know. Google’s no different. I don’t mind the ads, and in all fairness to Google, they seem to genuinely care about informing users about privacy.
Schimdt assured the journalists that there was plenty of growth left in ad revenue. “Better targeted ads” is the secret sauce. I tend to agree. Advertisers would pay more for them. Google is striving for accuracy. We are the targets. The evolution of search ads went from bombs (carpet bombs at first) to missiles. Google sees room for growth in continuing to refine and perfect how accurately an ad can hit its target. The questions that needs to be added to the discussion is: how does that happen? Is there anything Google isn’t willing to watch, store, collect, monitor, whatever to meet this end?

24 Comments Google’s Laser-Guided Missiles

  1. Rachel

    Glad I’m not the only one who’s paranoid ;) I too am unplugging off the Google Grid – no gmail, no personalized Google, toolbar only through Firefox, and have switched from Blogger to WordPress. I’ll still use Google for search, but really, they don’t need to have me use any of their other products. It’s not like there aren’t better options out there besides Google…

    Reply
  2. or

    Do you use yahoo or ms services – they target banner ads to you based on behavior. Do you use any kind of toolbar – something is always being logged. Do You use ebay or paypal – they got your financial info. Amazon probably knows your buying habits much better than google. You better stop using the internet.

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  3. SvP

    Use Creditcards? Customer cards? frequent flyer miles? banc card to pay in stores?
    You cant escape personal information collection, the clear missionstatements and user policies, data collection policies etc.. make me trust Google, it’s subjective, but it all comes down to simple trust.

    Reply
  4. Skaag

    You are not looking at the other side of things. I hate spam, I hate ads, but hey, if there was one really good deal for buying cheap RAM or a cheap iPod bargain, and I didn’t know about it, then i’m an idiot. The problem is as always: trash!
    And I think google may be able to fight the spam and trash with the help of a healthy dose of capitalism. I don’t click the ads I don’t like, hence they don’t get my money, hence the advertiser doesn’t get my money, etc.
    And then what exactly do you think you’r escaping? At least they are doing it for a good cause, slowly eliminating the bad “evil” ones (spyware, spammers, etc.). You’r not using Gmail? Good for you but have you tried Hotmail? I have and I had to stop using it because of the amount of spam I used to get. At least in Gmail I don’t get spam (at all!).
    And you know what, how about the NSA and their insatiable desire to consume, digest, index, study, analyze, extrapolate from and finally act upon the behaviors and artifacts that make up the lives of all US citizens? Haven’t people said enough times that just because you say you have the good of the american citizens that is not an excuse for invading people’s privacy?
    Anyway I think Google is good, and here to stay at least for a while. I like their ways, I like that they are well intentioned, and better them with a clear agenda, than a smaller basement company which could, if they fail, resort to selling my email address for 2 cents to cover some of their losses.

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  5. Wan Zafran

    Well, I’m a Google fanboy and it’d be pretty hard for me to stop using any of their services. I use Gmail and Blogger, though, for purposes of paranoia, I do not use Google Desktop or Toolbar or anything else which would be revealing of the things that I store in my computer and my behaviour.
    It’s ironic now that I think about it, because most of my sensitive data resides in my emails and other online data, and not in my hard drive.

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  6. Arnar

    “why does Google want to [collect and organize the world’s data]”
    Perhaps because there is demand for services that collect and organize data. People in general want to use such services. And if there’s demand, there’s a money-making opportunity.
    It’s another matter altogether if those services are financed by advertisments or subscription fees. My guess is that the advertisment way is more profitable, since more people will use it that way – which in turns enables one to sell more ads (for a higher price).

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  7. Rayden

    It’s true Google are dominating and 97% of their revenure is from advertising.
    I suspect they want as much info about all of us as they can get so they can target ads effectively… not that I ever see the ads, thank you Adblock :)
    -Rayden
    http://www.wirah.com

    Reply
  8. Vern

    Well honestly all search engines know already know ALOT about you. They are just never out there to tell you about your searching habbits or what you put on the internet. They have the same tactics but maybe not as evasive or maybe out in the open. I honestly don’t put anything on the internet other than what I think is okay. Using gmail or any of its services are just fine, when you say putting credit cards, thats actually a fine line for a company to put on record even for google/yahoo and some others. What do you think telemarketing companies do, they do tons and tons of surveys to find out alot of information about people, even credit cards. Speaking of emails now, Gmail I’ve seen has cleaned out alot of my spam I’d receive, in my Hotmail account, I just registered and the next day I already had spam, which was odd to me because I didn’t use that email anywhere, not even in registration to any other place. So just to show how safe your email is at hotmail.

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  9. Ranjit Wassan

    The bottom line is that Google are better at creating truly useable systems. I am no fanboy but I could write you an essay on why Gmail is better than all other online email system.
    They can learn my behaviour for all I care, I never click on ads and that is usually because they dont apply, if this gets better you may end up thanking them.
    Also they are causing change in the real world aswell, pushing along things like online inventory of stores and alike (google base)!! I look forward to the day I can search for an item, find out where the nearest store is that sells it and then see if they have it in stock and then reserve it!! If there is a ad or two on the way I dont care!!
    Yahoo and MSN are playing catchup and I dont see it changing. Yahoo’s new mapping beta is a shameful rip off… I think they should be embarassed!
    MSN is slow to react and they just copy everything… at least with google its interesting… and its not going to be caled “Windows
    Live MApping Service” or some other long crud!!
    anyway there is my two cents worth!!

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  10. freak132

    One has to admit that many of their services, while creepy, are useful, most of all gmail. Not using them would be like denying yourself a cane with a slipfree grip in the event that you need one. The solution is to simply use with caution, dont use your gmail exclusively, for your close circle of friends turn on pop mail and use an email client with encryption, cycle your use of search engines and possibly email accounts. In essence dont give them all the pieces of the puzzle and for God’s Sake, put on your tinfoil hat! (I have yet to make one >.

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  11. Justin G. Mitchell

    I have these same issues. I use Gmail and the personalized home page, but I have search indexing turned off and don’t use desktop, but I still worry about the amount of information I know they gather on me.
    But what does the average user do for free email? Yahoo and MSN definitely aren’t any better.

    Reply
  12. pdboddy

    Heh, Google isn’t the only one trying to perfect ad targetting. Everyone who has a pitch, a service or something to sell you wants better ad targetting.
    Personally, I use Blogger, Google Pages and Gmail. I’ll use Gdrive if it ever comes.
    Paranoid about people using your data? As quite a few folks have pointed out here in the comments, any card you use leaves a trail, any search you do on the internet leaves a trail… anything electronic leaves a signature somewhere on some server.
    With scandals like Enron and WorldCom in recent memory, why does Google stick out?

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  13. Natch

    What makes you think you have the option not to use Google? You probably use services like Delicious, Digg, and Craigslist that are obvious potential Google acquisition targets.
    You can quibble with the specific example companies I’ve named, but the point still stands. Every time you put information into an internet service that is not Google, you should not rule out the possibility that someday Google will own that data.
    And if you’ve chosen not to use Google, I guess that means you don’t send email to Gmail users, also, right?

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  14. johnbmull

    If Google is reading my email, my documents, or my chat transcripts, then I feel very sorry for them. My life is so boring that I’m sure their CPU’s are having trouble staying awake whilst reviewing my blog.
    I similarly feel sorry for that CIA operative who is monitoring the wiretap on my phone. The most boring job in the world. Evar.
    Lastly, if you don’t like what the internet (Google, Bank Of America, Amazon, etc) knows and stores about you, then seed it with misinformation. Use someone else’s Food Lion grocery card. Let someone else use yours. Login to a site with a new username of “BillClinton”. Alter digits in your phone number, SSN, etc. Tainted information will be the death of the information collectors.

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  15. Kaj-Erik Relander

    Google uses the data for advertising. That’s one thing. The other thing what it is, it’s basically the Total Information Awareness program in flesh…

    Reply
  16. fred

    leave google alone they are the best search engine compared to anything else and are constantly trying to improve them selves by branching out, or maybe they should start charging us for everything they do for us.

    Reply
  17. Charle's Blog

    Gmail tells Google Who You Are

    There are too many blogs and articles talking about Google’s aggressive data collection behavior, here’s a new one. What I want to talk today is Gmail. It’s been out for 2 years and it still doesn’t accept open registration. Do

    Reply
  18. CoMagz

    People underestimate the power of Google to organize and classify people, and then sell to them.
    For example- via Blogger and Measure Map Google can connect blogs with their owner ID.
    This, along with their access to our emails, photos etc. gives them more information about us than what any government agency could get.
    Why ? Because blog say a lot more about their owners than what meets the eys. Take an average blog and analyse it carefully. You will know what the person like and dislike and many more personal details.
    More on this

    Reply
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