You Are Google’s Product, Not Their Consumer

There’s been a big uproar around a comment Google’s former CEO and current Chairman, Eric Schmidt, said the other week when asked why they are so adamant that people use real names on Google Plus. His answer: Google Plus “essentially provides an identity service with a link structure around your friends” — and you thought it was just a neat way to see your friends’ photos. Free Software Magazine has a very interesting analysis of the situation via an equally interesting Business Week article, which points out the identity service is not so much to help us regular folk keep spammers and cyber bullies at bay, as it is a cash cow for Google.

Why? Because anonymous user data is much less valuable to advertisers than real data. If they can tie your name and zip code to your Google searches, well the sky’s the limit on what they can learn about you; then they can show you ads that are better tailored to your interests, so that you’re more likely to buy their stuff, making their ad campaigns a lot more effective. And here’s how Google advertises itself to investors:

Who are our customers? Our customers are over one million advertisers, from small businesses targeting local customers to many of the world’s largest global enterprises, who use Google AdWords to reach millions of users around the world.

In other words, Google sells you — the digital shadow of you, at least — to advertisers, and that’s how they make money. So their end goal isn’t to make you happy, but rather to make the people who keep their lights on happy: the advertisers. The only thing they have to do is make sure that people use Google services: the search engine, GMail, Android phones, Google News, etc. And that’s the extent to which they care what you think: so that you will keep using their services, and they can keep selling you to advertisers. The hardest part of their job is probably to walk this fine line between pissing people off enough to leave and keeping advertisers interested in their user data. But as long as they keep creating services that are better or cheaper than anything else, then people will keep coming back to rent themselves out to the advertisers.

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold. — Andrew Lewis

And finally, The Onion had a funny video a while back about Google’s new opt-out program:

From Free Software Magazine and Business Week, via Slashdot

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