The Power of Google is Power
I just bought a Motorola Droid, which is Verizon’s Android-based smart phone, Android being Google’s OS for mobile devices. Its integration with Google gives me a lot of “power” to integrate my online tools with my mobile device, which is very satisfying. I experience it as empowering, and my attention is focused on learning what it can do and then on using it. My attention is not focused on Google itself and what its growing ubiquity may mean.
I am paranoid by nature, but I don’t have a vision of what Google’s growing power is going to mean decades from now. I know, however, that power corrupts. So I think I should be more scared than I am about the fact that:
- Google records my search data
- Google data-mines my email
- Google tracks my visits to sites that use Google Analytics
- Google is buying more and more websites and services and integrating the data it collects on them
- Google maintains a database of my contacts
- My Droid has a GPS that tells Google my location (I have the option to share it or not share it with friends – thanks for the privacy feature)
- The usability and power of Google’s services compel me to share more and more of my own information with them – calendar, finance, shopping, documents, email
- Google is exploring a service to manage our health records; I think it’s already available in beta
- I can see my house on Google, from the street and from the sky
- Google is becoming hungrier for financial returns. Its ad service is becoming more profitable, but if they can think of more ways of making money from their data, they will.
As I said, I don’t have a vision of the shape that all of this power will take. But it unquestionably adds up to power. Technologically, there is an economy to data integration that lends itself to Google growing larger and making competition more difficult. It is not like a dot com that can disappear when the fickle public notices a different one, because its strength lies in its huge database of user information. It is not so easy to migrate away from Google at this point.