For everything that Google is, and let’s face it, the word Google is pretty much the same type of verb that Xerox became, when we need to find something online we don’t search for it, we Google it, the company is in the business of selling advertising. As the market for online advertising continues to contract, we should have always expected that a company that makes most of it’s income from advertising would start to find more and more intrusive ways to accomplish that. That’s why as Facebook and Twitter continued to roll out features that made the services less private, and more prone to selling ads, I wasn’t really surprised. Even as others touted the glory of using Google Plus instead of Facebook, because of it’s better security model, I reminded myself that eventually, Google would be in the same boat. With all of that user data, they wouldn’t be able to turn away from doing the same sorts of things to increase the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.
Sure enough, this past week brought proof positive that they are, in fact, heading down the very same path. First, was the recognition by Seth Bestmertnik that Google’s attempt to “protect the privacy” of web searches, might just be a way of charging websites to see the search terms that bring traffic to their sites.
Then, of course, was the announcement that Google was going to start using your Plus profiles as part of “shared endorsements”. Right now, it appears that these shared endorsements are limited to Google Play and Google Places reviews, but I could easily see this becoming something where Google is taking my having a company in my circles on Google Plus as an endorsement and sharing that information in the same way. Of course, that will prove to be quite embarrassing for many of us who might follow various industry experts and blogs run by competing companies and having that “follow” show up as an endorsement in Google’s search results. In fact, there is nothing at all in the official explanation that limits what Google can do with your profile information and “likes”. I might have to really re-think my involvement with Plus if it comes to that.
I would not be surprised to see more of these types of things coming down from Google. Just like Facebook, Yahoo! and every other online company that draws revenue through advertising, they get better rates if they can direct more relevant advertising to you, the end user. What better way to direct relevant advertising than to tap into all that data being shared by you, and about you, within your social network?
What do you think? Has Google truly shed it’s “Do no Evil” motto in favor of using their leverage with search, Gmail, and other products to tap into personal information for advertiser’s benefits? And should we care? After all, we provided Google with that information in the first place?