Archive for July, 2011

Google+: The Pretty Data Bow

With Google+ it appears that Google is pulling out all the stops and bringing its information might to the party, and in the process may be in a position to have an even better user data trove than what Facebook has achieved to date.  What’s more, is that they could possibly have a much easier time of building this up and the quality of the data may actually get more and more accurate because of their numerous touch points with users.  Think about it for a moment, Google has a significant number of email users, many of which use Google as their primary personal email address, not to mention lots of small and medium-sized companies using it as their primary business email for their employees.  Google Apps are being shared by more and more people with more and more people every day.  Google Checkout, while not a raging success and pales by comparison to Paypal, still has a significant user base and is still being worked on and evolved.  Google has also normalized YouTube’s user accounts into its profile management systems.  If we just consider these services, that’s a lot of user information, or just simply a large number of user identifiers and names that Google already has for everyone of us.

So I spent last night setting up Google+ and was struck by how many of my friends and acquaintances could easily be found.  However, it was different aspects of them that were being found.  Because Google’s profiles are used by all of their products, depending on how someone used Google’s services they would have a profile completed in some way.  In some cases, I’d find multiple profiles for an individual user with different email addresses.  Not knowing how I would be interacting with that person, I tended to grab all of their visible profiles and would associate them with one or more “Circles”, only making sure that these profiles didn’t belong to different people.

For my profile, I decided that like on Facebook, I’d change my name to “P-Air”.  However, as I was executing this a reminder explained that this would take affect across my Google profile which meant that this would impact my other, perhaps more serious, uses of Google’s services.  While on Facebook I could ignore their request that I use my real name, on Google+ unless I do quite a bit more work in creating a fake email address and a profile to go along with it, they have in effect forced me into using my real name.  This began to get me thinking about all of their other services that appear as independently operating components (ie. Google Checkout) that I would or would not use very frequently, can now come to bear on this service.  As well, because I do like the “Circles” concept which Facebook really dropped the ball on with their Groups, I’m now classifying my interactions in more significant buckets for Google to be able to act upon these.  Wow!  If we thought that Facebook was getting a free ride from user generated data that they are gathering and mining, Google has just gone to the next level.  What’s most diabolical about all of this, is that Google+ feels very smooth.  Forgetting for a second that we are more the product in this new model than we have ever been, now we may be blinded by how nicely it all comes together.

Now the question is, can I trust Google more with my privacy, even with the settings they have introduced from the get-go, than I can Facebook.  This feels kind of like asking whether I find politicians of the Democrat or Republican persuasion more trustworthy 😉