Google Sees All

The tech blogs have "confirmed" Google's acquisition of Feedburner, an RSS management service that monitors many of the feeds you read. By understanding what's on everybody's feedreaders, Google takes one more step closer to amassing a Universal Personal Database that is granular to the individual, but collectively beginning to look a lot like the proverbial Big Brother. Geek News Central pipes up about how the Feedburner acquisition will provide too much personal data to Google.

Yesterday's Financial Times posts a
video report that has Google's CEO Eric Schmidt confirming Google's mission to know everything there is to know about the Google user, to the extent Google can even begin to recommend jobs for a specific user. Sounds extreme, but Google is well on its way to mass documentation of personal data that the CIA can only envy.

Here's what Google knows about you:

From the above data, Google can potentially figure out details as subtle as your political profile and whether you might commit a crime.

Here's what Google is missing:
  • Who your friends/network are - Social network
  • Where you work - Job search engine
  • Where you live - Google MyMaps might pinpoint it... or acquire Zillow for housing data
  • How you play - Travel search and recommendation
Google will continue its acquisition strategy to cover the above bases - I think the social network is the next big target, Orkut was just an experiment.

How Google can use its Universal Personal Database for creating a new definition of "Efficient Markets"

In finance, the efficient market hypothesis posits that it is impossible to outperform any market except through new information - news, events, insider data - that appears randomly in the future. Google can easily track the new information that changes markets. It can establish new business paradigms by leveraging the real time data coursing through its Database with a simple construct that Google offers today: the Google alert. For example,
  • Real time stock market research and trading services that instantaneously analyzes a web of Google alerts across a variety of Google services, prompting waves of program trading with every news development.
  • Real time political polling that coaches politicians on how to react to breaking issues ("Instant Karl Rove") by monitoring online public reactions.
  • Real time market research that predicts and spots nascent trends across a variety of industries - fashion, cars, media, etc.
Note the operative word is "real time", the instantaneous window of opportunity where markets are made. Markets have a reaction time that historically has shortened from hours to minutes to seconds on breaking news. For example, unexpected catastrophes will instigate online searches for terms like "Home Depot", "insurance risk" or "rental housing in Baton Rouge" that can present stock and other asset buying opportunities across a set of relevant sectors. Today's consumer Google Alert has too much lag time for market timing purposes, but I'm sure Google is working on their alert-based enterprise application.

Civil liberties, personal privacy

Personal privacy used to mean explicit personal information - social security number, credit rating, and other demographic facts. The new realm of the "personal profile" will include implicit information that, like a personality test or a CIA file, may be surprisingly accurate. The new standard for civil liberties will be to ensure Google or other personal data aggregators don't abuse data they hold proprietarily to "game" social systems. One obvious example would be to leak damaging personal data on public figures to the media.

Would Google provide third party access of their Database? They haven't so far, and it's the basis of the reasoning they use to remain very opaque - making that data available will allow unscrupulous parties to compromise the data or scam the public. Search Engine Watch advocates Google transparency that builds in safeguards against fraudulent activities.

In sum, Google seems to be on a mission to profoundly change the lives of individuals for the better by making "personal markets" more efficient.... meaning that Google makes it easier to find what you want and may indeed become a great referral, even networking, source, for opportunities you wouldn't think about.

Related stories:

Valleywag - Fear of Google Chart
Update: Mashable, June 1 - My Soul and 10 Other Things Google Owns

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  • 5/24/2007 11:36 AM Lenore Wilkas wrote:
    Big Brother has existed for years, Pat. Clartis Corp.'s Prizm offers marketers data about individuals that is surprisingly accurate down to the voter census track you live in and they've been doing this for over 15 years. The technology Google is using is the same stuff the Fed's have and may still use. I remember sitting in meetings in the mid-90's when I worked in the Internet biz listening to companies come through trying to sell us their targeting technology. You could see how powerful the targeting options were going to be one day. The question you raise is how to make sure this ability of Google, or any of the other big players, is kept private. Our current government would dearly love to be able to target like that. I don't think they are doing it yet, but who knows and who trusts them any way? Basically, where's the harm in targeting to you if you, the end user, get the data you want quickly? Do you object if your identity is kept out of it? Probably not, but it's only an issue when the data is in the wrong hands and used for the wrong reasons. Watch out Google. We're watching you, so don't do anything crazy.
    Reply to this

  • 5/24/2007 3:56 PM Drew Meyers wrote:
    Personally, I think Facebook is going to be the next MASSIVE, MASSIVE internet company on the level of Yahoo! and Google. They have all sorts of data on users & are poised to add even more with today's official announcement that anyone can build applications on top of the Facebook application.
    Reply to this

  • 5/24/2007 9:42 PM Dan Green wrote:
    Google knows I am reading this right now...

    Great piece, Pat. You tie the loose ends together quite well.
    Reply to this

  • 5/25/2007 7:43 AM john harper wrote:
    I just Googled your name and Dean's face came up. What's up with that? You guys are spending way too much time together
    Reply to this

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