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Google and Facebook know more about me than any company in history

July 16, 2011

In this article, Steve Rosenbaum talks about the scary Terms of Service at Google.

“Yes, you heard me right – Google’s terms and conditions, buried in tiny print that most users will miss, gives them the right to take control of your content.”

He then goes on to quote most of 11.1 from here.

His argument, as stated above, is that Google wants to control your content. His proof, their terms. Strangely, he didn’t link to said Terms of Service.

I suspect the reason he didn’t like to the TOS is that he left out the first sentence in the paragraph he quoted. That sentence goes like this:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

That sentence clearly doesn’t fit into the narrative of Google wanting to own your stuff. One can’t write a rant about how Evil Google is, and have this sentence be involved. So he cut it. Ad editor would have killed the story upon reading the TOS, but the Internet isn’t edited.

Here is the full text of what he quoted.

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

Again, the author of the rant started at the second sentence in his admonishing of Google. But this isn’t about his rant. In the comments of the article, many people have pointed out the incredibly shoddy oversight.

So let’s think about Google. The first sentence says unequivocally that I own the pictures that Google hosts for me, for free on Picasa.

If one read sentence two, and understands that Google might display something I upload to Picasa onto Google+ (or vice versa), then perhaps it is smart of Google to ensure I don’t charge them a fee to place it on another platform. I’ve had an image from Picasa go to Google Earth. If they didn’t have sentence two on 11.1, could I charge them a fee since I own the copyright?

Is Google out to rule the world? 

I think Google+ is an effort to copy Facebook (and not compete).

Millions of people freely gave data to Facebook in return for a free service. Contrary to the theory postulated above, Facebook and Google don’t want to own your stuff for the purpose of reselling it. They want you to upload content so they can learn more about you. They want to know more about you in order to send you ads.

Google hit on the wonderful marketing to intent model with adwords. google advertises to intention — that’s awesome.

But Facebook, with mountains of data about us, wants to market to people. Because people will most-likely be logged into Facebook and Google as they surf the net, Facebook can deliver ads to us based on our desires.

The true goal of both of these networks is to deliver a Curling space ad to me when I’m on a blog, and a different space ad to you, at the same time, on the same blog. In this sort of Minority Report-like world, relevant ads will follow us around the Internet.

The collection of our content is an effort to get a better picture of us in order to advertise to us.

It’s that simple. That might be evil, but then again, maybe I only want to see ads for things Google thinks I like.

Aren’t you sick of seeing irrelevant ads?

Last point: no two companies in the history of the world have collected more data about us than Facebook and Google (assuming one enjoys the free services that are part of this transaction).

Google knows my search history, hosts many of my pictures and videos, hosts my thoughts on blogger, and due to maps, knows where I live and go. And that is the tip of the iceberg of data Google has on me.

Facebook knows my friends, my best friends, my interests, my family, my work history, and my likes. It also knows my thoughts due to hundreds of status updates.

Before they came along, no company knew 5% of the data these two companies know about me. I would guess that Google and Facebook learned more about me just this week than my Bank knows about me period.

On some levels, that’s scary. But it is a choice. Both Facebook and Google offer an exit strategy. I can shut down Facebook, and disengage from Google.

But I won’t. Because right now, they add value to my lives. And so far, there isn’t a real cost to getting that value. Life is a bit simpler with Google. And last night, I send an e-mail through Facebook to a friend and got a response in seconds.

Please don’t read this as a pro Google or Facebook post. I think people should be aware of their data, and give data to companies that offer something in return. Your information has value, and I think far too many people have forgotten the value of their data.

Incidentally, the third company that knows shit about me is Apple. But I would say they know way less. They still know more about me than my bank, but it is less.

What do you think? Do you care about the data Google and Facebook have on you?

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