Is there any part of our lives online and offline that Google doesn’t know about?
People laughed when we reported on that anecdote a while back that Google was developing an artificial intelligence. Well — it doesn’t seem so ludicrous now does it? This nice post points out exactly what Google knows about us at any one time. And it’s A LOT.
Bits that we’ve hacked out of the post:
With its acquisition of Feedburner, Google now controls the leading company for managing RSS feeds. Thus, Google knows everything about my readers – how many of them there are, where they come from, and how they access my content. How might Google use this information? Targeting ads in my feeds based on context or geography sounds like a start, but using cookies the company could also theoretically collect data on my readers and better tailor ads to them throughout Google’s product line.
With an estimated 30% market share (based on bloggers, many of whom use Google-owned Blogger, reporting statistics from the now Google-owned Feedburner!), Google Reader is one of the most popular tools for aggregating RSS feeds. By knowing the blogs and news sites I read, Google can tailor ads to my preferences. Additionally, Google could use this data to customize my search results by favoring sites similar to those to which I subscribe.
Through Gmail and Gchat, Google knows everyone I contact. While you can turn a chat session “off the record,” Gmail’s 2.859GB (and counting!) of storage provides enough space so most people never need to delete a message. Thus, Google has both a history of all of my emails and chats, and can also make inferences about my strongest connections are based on how frequently I correspond with them
While Google’s photo sharing application Picasa is far from a market leader, with its purchase of YouTube and its homegrown Google Video product, Google is the undisputed dominant player in online video. Thus, Google knows not only what I search for, but what I produce.
(Around here is where it gets scary … )
Hopefully you’re not so unlucky to be one of the guys photographed leaving the strip club or adult book store in the new Google Street View feature, but there is a good chance your house or workplace can be seen via satellite in Google Maps. Additionally, Google Maps competes with MapQuest, Yahoo, and a host of others for providing driving directions, so they have a good idea of the places you frequent.
While Google is still in the early stages of building out its suite of Office-like applications, their ambitions have become fairly clear. With Docs & Spreadsheets, an upcoming PowerPoint competitor, and partnerships with the likes of Intuit and Salesforce.com, Google is spreading its tentacles far and wide in the business applications space, gaining knowledge into what you do, your finances, and who your contacts are.
With thanks to Adam Ostrow, whose post “MySoul, and 10 Other Things that Google Owns” this is based on.