Benefits to Google Privacy Data
March 15, 2006 3:06 PM   Subscribe

What benefits Google by collecting your private data?

Other than the obvious (serving targeting advertising), why does Google collect so much of our private data? What do they use it for? How does it benefit them as a company?

Comments and links to relevant articles are appreciated.
posted by blueplasticfish to Technology (7 answers total)
It helps them predict the future.
I can only guess that Google is dabbling in Data Mining. Data Mining works best with lots and lots of information. The more info you have, the better resolution your results will be. Google is likely applying this tech to figure out stock trends, sales and advertising/marketing research etc. But really, Data Mining with the vast amount of data Google has access too, is very, very (scary) powerful. How does it benefit the company? In more ways they we could possibly imagine.
posted by Hanover Phist at 3:29 PM on March 15, 2006

Data mining. It's a gold mine for a variety of specialist industries. A major reason Google collects and keeps detailed lists of search terms linked over time to particular IP addresses is the potential future value of that data to paying customers (or to Google's own profit schemes), particularly when that search data is combined with other existing databases that can potentially link IP addresses to particular individuals at particular times in the past. In his 1992 book The Naked Consumer, a careful early warning about privacy and the new marketing world, business journalist/historian Erik Larson set out four laws governing the flow of this kind of data. quoting directly from page 14:

First Law: Data *must seek* and merge with complementary data.
Second Law: Data *always* will be used for purposes other than originally intended.
Third Law: Data collected about individuals *will* be used to cause harm to one or more members of the group who provided the information or about whom it was collected, be it minor (the short-term aggravation of a 'junk' call during dinner) or major (the sorrow of getting a free sample of formula just after your miscarriage).
Fourth Law: Confidential information is confidential only until someone decides it's not.

Laws 1 and 4 are the keepers, for me. But the point is simple: Google uses the excuse of setting preferences for, say, number of results returned per page as an excuse to quietly collect far more data on its users than most of those users suspect. This data is a treasure trove of information, especially to the huge industry of data mining specialists who spend all their time looking for ways to combine various databases to get the biggest bang for their political and/or marketing buck. The recent government grab re: porn searches is a classic example, which Google is comendably fighting, but we have no guarantee that Google isn't preparing right now to start selling the data it has collected about our search habits - or isn't selling it already- and there's currently no law stopping them from doing so without our permission.

Rest assured the data mining industry is dying to get their hands on this information. Google's hardly alone in this, of course, and each of us has to decide if we really care or not. But the value to increasingly sophisticated advertising and political operatives in the info age couldn't be more obvious.
posted by mediareport at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2006

Actually, I meant Laws 2 and 4. Especially 2.
posted by mediareport at 3:55 PM on March 15, 2006

Google's stated goal is to help you find what you're looking for. For the most part, this is stuff on the internet. But it doesn't have to be. How many people loose their 1099s and wish Google could find them for them.
posted by pwb503 at 4:19 PM on March 15, 2006

If I'm going to be advertised to, I'd just as soon see ads that I might be interested in.
posted by JamesMessick at 7:02 AM on March 16, 2006

Response by poster: This is all we can come up with?
posted by blueplasticfish at 4:58 PM on March 16, 2006

Looks like it. Are you unsatisfied with "the value of this kind of database is immense to modern politics and advertising"? Google would add it's also to better serve us, although it seems to me there's little of value they offer to the average surfer that's derived from the information they collect and store on that user.

There are books about data mining and lots of articles about the ins and outs of cross-checking various consumer lists to mine for information; if you want to understand how it works, start looking in that direction at a good library.
posted by mediareport at 9:46 PM on March 16, 2006

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