Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Google Paranoia or A Cause for Concern?

By S. Housley

Anti-Google sentiment is on the rise. Web pundits have
tossed around monopoly theories and privacy advocates have
warned of a day of reckoning. While Google has made friends
on Wallstreet, it has disappointed the technical evangelists
who were once its fiercest followers. Google has grown into
a big scary company and web watchers are expressing their
concerns about the information Google gleans from their
various services.

Google Analytics is free, no one can beat the price, but
what is the real cost? The cost is your data. While not
terribly important when analyzed alone, when aggregated with
other information Google has access to, it could be
damaging. Data mining has made the collection of data
meaningful. It has become easier to find patterns and trends
in large volumes of data.

While any of that information independent of other data,
might be non-threatening or irrelevant to someone doing
analysis, when combined with other data Google has access
to, it can paint a very clear picture of how, not only
individual companies are performing, but the aggregate data
could possibly paint a picture of how entire business
sectors or industries are performing.

The big question is how will Google use this information?
Will it affect search engine ranking? Will it influence
keyword costs?

Paranoia? Lauren Weinstein doesn't seem to think so, her
blog post entitled "The Dark Side of Google" , paints a very
clear picture of the danger of a single entity possessing
all of the data.

According to a recent USA Today article "In just seven
years, Google has emerged as one off the most influential
companies of the 21st century, a multinational whose recent
forays into classified ads, book publishing, video, Wi-Fi
and telecom make its data empire ever more powerful." The
article goes on further to quote Jeff Chester, head of the
digital Center for Digital Democracy saying "Google could
easily become the poster child for a national public
movement to regulate data collection".

Lets take a look at Google's new analytics tool. As a
reporting tool, Google Analytics offers good features and
functionality. Google Analytics tells publishers who their
website referrers are, what pages visitors are viewing, the
length of the visitor stay, what items are purchased. Google
Analytics data can be used to develop new technologies, and
optimize pay per term influence ranking.

Google wants to make money, and like it or not, data is a
commodity. Google will likely use the data from their
various ventures to develop new technologies and personalize
content. Conspiracy theorists believe that the Google's
aggregate data will also be used to optimize the fees
charged for pay-per-click, influence organic ranking or
worse yet sold.

Unbeknownst to many users, privacy advocates say that
Google's technology give Google the ability to collect
enormous amounts of data about interests and online habits
of web surfers. That said, Google's growth will continue to
motivate privacy advocates and those in the technology field
behind the Attention Truste movement to work together, to
improve how personal information and subscription
information is used online. I expect we will see a lot of
energy and effort in this arena.

Lets face it, Google wants to make money; no, now that they
are public they *need* to make money and like it or not,
data is a commodity. Whether Google will use your data or
not is still to be determined, but the fact remains they can
if they choose to. Google's storage capacity, is as deep as
its pockets, meaning that it is far ahead of competitors.
All of this has motivated privacy advocates and eyes are on
and will continue to be focused on Google and the type of
data they are capable of collecting.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for Feed for All software for creating, editing,
publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon
manages marketing for NotePage a
wireless text messaging software company.