Is there anything Google doesn’t know about you?

And do you care?

I didn’t but maybe I’m getting old because after many years I find myself wondering if we really have created a monster. Let’s look at what we know about them, on a very high level.

Google reinvented search as we know it. Relevant results quickly. It’s that simple. Throw in some good and relevant ads on the side and you have the most successful internet business ever ( a fact entirely supported by my brain ). Digging a bit deeper and you realize that to serve these ads and get you good results means learning about you as a user each time you use them. So where you are in the world, the browser you use, the site you came from and where you go next. Normal web stuff, nothing fancy. But anyone could do that.

So next was to create accounts that you logged in with. More detail now. They can know who you are, they can get you onto gmail ( best web mail solution ever! ) and scan the content to serve even more relevant content. They can now store your browsing behaviour for you and show you your trends and patterns. Very cool. And useful for them

Did I Mention that they only have one business, advertising? The pattern becomes clear.

Many other tools become available. Google docs ( hideous. Just hideous. Unless you never used a proper office productivity suite before ). Google reader, bookmark sync, Wave ( oh my. That did suck. The API is the important bit though so all is not lost yet ) and then Buzz. Whoops! Did I just share your details with you axe-murdering ex? Sorry about that. Will send you better search results, on the house!

Google earth is killer. Just killer. What a great tool. And Picasa. Just the best mix of sorting, storing, editing and uploading of your digital life. And we can share it through buzz even if private 😉

Street view makes me a bit twitchy. Not because it’s not a brilliant idea, or brilliantly executed but because we live in a world full of tossers essentially. I have a thing about basic privacy, and privacy that you can have some control over. A car driving about with a camera filming people ( incedentally I know ) as they go about their lives to me is not cool. As I said, I like the idea of what street view gives us, but it also overshares. I realize that it’s not feasible to ‘scrub’ the data to show generic views on the world but something about it stresses me a bit. I seem to recall that you can even tag someone on it. More search optimization for you sir!

Google showed Microsoft how to do online, mostly. Microsoft had taken notes and their office online is looking really good. Bing is actually awesome now as is their online maps and earth equivalent. I still don’t like hotmail and ie irritates me. I love Chrome. A lot. Techie after all.

Google has Android. So add your phone to their entourage of things they know about you the fact that they know where you are at any point in time. Always. So does Apple I’m sure, but that is about all they know. Google knows EVERYTHING.

Buy they are not evil. They even say so. Which is the other large question. Why do they need to tell us that they won’t be… And they haven’t been evil that we know of. Or have they? We actually just do not know what they do with our data.

All I know is that they know all. They know your dirty little secrets, where you are, where you tagged your home, your kids names, your friends list, numbers and emails. They mine every detail to make your searches more relevant, to make their results more relevant. To sell more ads. It’s all down to that in the end. When will they sell out completely? Will they? Are they actually good? Are they just the biggest humanitarian organisation around? I doubt it.

What are the alternatives? Who are they, and again, should we care? I’m not sure. I haven’t even delved into the software and engineering endeavors that have given us amazing API’s and insights. Again, there is amazing richness in it all, it is just the bigger picture I’m considering here.

OK, I write here from my iPhone and haven’t reread any if this so it is likely a rambling mess, but there it is. Maybe I’ll rewrite it tomorrow

Cheers for now, R

p.s. minor spelling edits. not bad for thumbs.

p.p.s. this was written over a year ago, much has changed. I will post an update at some point with the latest offerings and their impact.