The Evolution Of Google


Google introduced a new privacy policy last week -- and while it is essentially a practical move on its part to simplify more than 60 separate policies into a single, overarching policy, it says a lot about the company Google has become.

Ask anyone to describe Google and they will immediately respond, “It’s a search engine.” While Google still derives a ridiculous amount of revenue from this core product, the company is so much more than its founding product.

The new privacy policy confirms this and, if you read between its lines, shows you just how much Google isn’t “just a search engine” any more. 

First and foremost, Google is an ad-serving engine. But it is also a publisher -- YouTube, Maps, Picasa, Blogger -- and a group of productivity applications, including Email, Calendar and Docs.  And, it is a provider of operating systems and, in a more limited way, hardware (Chromebooks and, soon, Motorola Mobility). Google has unified nearly all its products under a single sign-in governed by a single privacy policy in recognition of these realities.  Just as you sign in once to Facebook or Apple or Amazon to use a full collection of features and products, you now can do the same at Google.



What’s central to the new privacy policy -- and the main reason why search marketers and all users of Google’s advertising products should celebrate it -- is the fact that Google will use information gleaned from activity in virtually any one of its services by a user to inform how ads will be targeted to that user across all Google services.

In emails and blog posts announcing the new, simplified policy, which goes into effect on March 1of this year, Google says it will use data collected from user activities to personalize its services.

“We can provide more relevant ads,” Alma Whitten, director of privacy, product and engineering, said in a blog post. “For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you.”

She goes on to point out that, beyond just better- targeted ads, “We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day.” 

In this last example, Google could also serve mobile ads that show you a great restaurant at your destination for lunch or offer coupons for retailers in the area. How could this be anything but good for advertisers, for the consumer, and for Google?

While consumers may not opt out from the new privacy policy, they can choose to log out from Google and use search outside of the logged-in environment. Consumers can also choose to forgo using Google products and services altogether -- there are, after all, alternatives to every single Google product or service out there for folks to turn to.

At least two Capitol Hill lawmakers -- one on the House side and one on the Senate -- are making noises about investigating whether or not this new policy tramples on rights to privacy. Given that Google provides nearly all its services for free and consumers do have a choice of which services they use for search, email, photo sharing, videos and more, I can’t see how Google is doing anything out of the ordinary.

Indeed, Google is transforming itself in a way that’s good for everyone.

3 comments about "The Evolution Of Google".
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  1. Elizabeth Mayberry from Emmaco Inc., January 30, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.

    Buried in the explanation for Google's condensation of their privacy policy is this example: You go to your local coffee house each morning and your favorite barista knows the drink you always get and has it ready for you. Google wants to provide that kind of service.
    Sometimes I want to break out of my rut, shake things up, and try something new. I guess if I want to see something new I will use Bing and avoid the inevitable waste of my time trying to override Google's algorithm set for my "preferences".

  2. Curtis Bahr from TBWA/Chiat/Day, January 30, 2012 at 5:10 p.m.

    Do you often search with open ended questions?

    Usually I search for specific things; letting the search engine make an educated guess at what will be most relevant for me sounds great.

  3. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, January 30, 2012 at 6:48 p.m.

    Not only might you have decided to do something different the day the barista hands you a ready-to-go drink, leaving you (a) unhappy or (b) the barista with a drink to throw away — but worse is the day you turn into the coffee shop only to realize you have another errand you have to do first and leave. This happened at my coffee place one day and the barista sheepishly admitted to being too quick on the trigger. Sometimes it is better to let the customer tell you what he or she wants.

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