On Google, Privacy, and Data Management

February 15, 2012
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Google’s new privacy policy is causing quite the stir. In a nutshell, effective March 1st of this year, the company is going to be integrating user information from its different products and services much more extensively than before. For instance, a YouTube video watched on Manchester United might cause an add for soccer jerseys to appear in Gmail.

Google’s new privacy policy is causing quite the stir. In a nutshell, effective March 1st of this year, the company is going to be integrating user information from its different products and services much more extensively than before. For instance, a YouTube video watched on Manchester United might cause an add for soccer jerseys to appear in Gmail.

In The Age of the Platform, I write about how all of these products and services are in fact just planks on the Google platform.

Some people have a problem with this level of integration. I am not one of them, as I wrote recently. In today’s post, I’d like to discuss my non-objections from a data management perspective.

The privacy extremists question whether Google is being true to its stated corporate credo, Don’t be evil. They worry about what will happen to the information that Google collects on its users. To me, Google is merely doing what all companies should do–i.e., practice solid data management.

Google and Data Silos

Consider the following questions:

  • Would it be better for Google not to collect and integrate as much user information as possible?
  • Should Google maintain a bunch of disparate data silos?
  • Should Google Maps not talk to Google Docs or Google Music?
  • Should they all be different departments within Google?

If you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Tim Cook, then the answers to these questions are yes. You don’t want Google to succeed. If you’re a Google investor, employee, or vendor, though, the answer is an unequivocal no. Google is Google because of many reasons including brilliant employees, a cool corporate culture, and remarkable technology. But all of that wouldn’t matter if Google didn’t manage its data well.

Period.

Understanding the Hate

Many Google detractors simply envy what Google does so well–and so much better than other organizations. Yes, I’m talking about data management. Don’t think for a minute that many of these same people aren’t trying to figure out how to do exactly what Google is doing–or learn from Larry and Sergey.

No doubt that this envy extends to technology. As a web-native company, Google probably doesn’t have a great deal of spaghetti architecture running behind the scenes. 1960s mainframes? Please. Google played leapfrog and embraced the cloud long before many CIOs even heard the term.

Simon Says

If Yahoo! had the ability to manage its data as well as Google, then perhaps the dot-com leftover might be doing better that it has been over the last five years.

If you truly dislike what Google is doing as a consumer, then use Bing, Yahoo! Mail, MapQuest, and other alternatives to Google products. That’s your choice as an individual. As a company, however, it’s hard to argue with Google’s results. Dislike the company if you must, but you can’t help but admire how the company manages its data.

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