The Worst Thing Google Could Do

I have just finished reading this very interesting interview over at Pandia titled “Andrew Goodman on the future of Google and the search engine industry”.

The whole interview is well worth reading and something interesting jumped out at me:

The worst thing Google can do is to lose sight of consumer and partner concerns about their privacy and autonomy. It’s quite the case that a backlash can spread and once that tips, people could develop a real aversion to Google and abandon its products and services en masse.

Privacy is a very interesting issues. We are all worried (well most of us) about privacy and would all like more privacy, but we also quite happily (and unthinkingly) trade that privacy for convenience.

You only need to look as far as credit cards to realize that we trade a lot of privacy there for the convenience they offer. When credit cards were first introduced people were worried about their impact on privacy, but that went away quickly as they became more convenient.

We also sign up to any number of customer loyaty programs, at the grocery store for example, or fill in product registrations, or sign with DVD rental services. All these are tracked and linked to individuals. Then there are all the internet stores that track what we buy, or sell, who we talk to, etc…

In all these cases we have willingly given up privacy because of the convenience.

In BG (Before Google) times, finding information about people was still relatively difficult for the average person, but now a quick search will unearth all sorts of information, something enabled by a powerful search engine which is enormously useful and is now used by more than half the population searching on the internet.

The article continues:

The real question of course is how far can you take it and how far should you take it. Is privacy a concern? Definitely. I can’t predict how such concerns will affect people’s behavior down the road. It’s such a huge topic.

Look at the way you might have changed your own approach to email, though, especially if you work in a corporate environment. Do you take special care not to be too “candid” or revealing, knowing everything is public?

You only have to look at the raft of controversies and court cases revolving around incriminating emails, and around emails which have been lost to realize that people think about this very infrequently.

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