That is a great question. Why do Google invest so heavily in so many applications that they essentially give away for free? How can they provide such a robust email infrastructure with GMail and an unlimited photo storage plan? Well it’s easily answered by a single statement. They want to collect data about you. But why? Before that, let’s look at some of the services that are offered.
OK, so this is simply the first block of items that appear when you drop down the ‘Apps’ menu in your GMail account. Plenty to choose from but have you ever been asked to pay for your access to Maps, or YouTube, or Calendar, or News. Nope. Because quite honestly to them that is not where the money is. Collecting individual subscriptions from end users is not the goal.
Millions of ‘Free’ accounts
By having millions of users with access to their free services gives quite the unique data store of information. It means that all those people worldwide are using the internet to communicate with each other, searching for things whilst logged in to their Google account, watching YouTube, going places with Maps. All constantly adding to this complex store of profiles about all of us.
Traffic on Maps?
How did you think Google maps gets it’s traffic information? It’s genius when you think about it but also so incredibly simple. They just monitor the GPS location of Android phones when they are travelling. If a collection of Android devices are going slowly at a certain part of the road, then it calculates a slow down and you start to see Yellow/Red patches. Everyone’s location is being tracked but used to help the community travel efficiently. Did I say that data collection was bad? Nope, it can be very useful.
How can they do this?
Well you agreed to it. Plain and simple. When you signed up for a GMail account you had to read all the Terms and Conditions. Over the years this has been made easier to read but many of us just skip over it. I would suggest you have a look through and see what is in there. Here is the link.
Isn’t Google a Search Engine Companyy?
Well remember that we would think that Google is a Search Engine Company right? Wrong, they are anything but that. They worked out early on that the search engine component just gets people to their site. How do you monetize a search engine? You don’t. People are not going to pay to be able to ‘Google’ something are they? But what if they could sell the information they collect about you? Now there is something that you can make money on.
You are the product
When you use Google services that are free, by definition in the Terms and Conditions, you have allowed Google to build a profile about you. Everything that you search for, click on, express in an email, upload a photo about, chat to somebody on Hangouts, basically everything, is indexed and held for analysis.
Google know about your political bias, your relationship, what you watch on YouTube, what time you travel to work, what day of the week you visit the Grocery store. Everything basically.
In fact, YOU are the perfect product for them to sell.
Who buys it?
Advertisers. Easy. They will ask Google to place an advert in a particular stream for a particular demographic. Let’s say they have a product that is geared towards Males between 25-35, that work more than twenty miles from their house, that have search for sunglasses in the past two weeks and normally get takeout on Tuesdays and Wednesday and have at least one dog. There you go, you fit that demographic you will get the advert in your feed.
You didn’t think those adverts were random did you? Silly you. You asked Google Home to play particular shows on Netflix, then it heard you talking about going a cruise next year. Yep, you are probably going to see cruise adverts start to pop up.
What should you do?
Well you can choose to ignore the adverts. That’s the simple one. Or you may find the placement of this adverts incredibly helpful. Very funny episode of SuperStore that you can Google, heehee, about when they are getting tracked by their employer. Satirical but very true. Check out this clip.
Some people may chose to start ‘not’ using these things so much but in the end the cloud is a place that is run by BigTech companies that promise to “Not be Evil” but I will let you make up your own mind on this.
In the meantime have a look at this article I wrote about how to turn off a lot of the tracking functions that Google have inside your Google Account. May help tone it down a touch.
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