Why Does Google Collect Personal Data?

DuckDuckGo has this to say.

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Let’s think about what this means for a second.

  1. If DuckDuckGo can make enough money to turn a profit, then imagine what Google could earn even if they did the same as DuckDuckGo. Given Google’s vastly larger resources, reach, brand and advertiser relations, they might even be earning as much as they do now.
  2. Personal information collection is most useful in the cases where the user has not explicitly expressed intent. For example, personal information can be used to choose which ads to show a user in a banner ad or a feed. Since the user will already have provided intent in a search, the additional benefit of personal information is actually quite small, as demonstrated by the solidness of DuckDuckGo’s revenues.
  3. Google makes money most off search. Their display ads (AdSense) are barely growing and only a small fraction of total ad revenue.

Apparently, Google could be almost as profitable as it is now even without personal data collection.

Then why do they do it? What would happen if certain regulations like the GPDR come in effect and outlaw rampant data collection? What would happen if Apple continued to improve its privacy protecting features and prevented Google from collecting this?

DuckDuckGo shows us that Google’s revenues might not be harmed at all.

  • obarthelemy

    My guess would be:
    – the cost of collecting data, both technical and commercial (user reactions) is extremely low
    – advertising value is non-negligible, there’s a reason why FB and Google are monopolizing online advertising
    – there’s a silent upside to having a trove of data on how your users use their (your !) tech. Google’s apps, especially Photo, News, voice recog, and the Android UI are constantly improved and tweaked to fit usage patterns and context. Not just the content, but the actual features and UI.
    – there’s a potential long-term upside for all those cloud-based services. I’d rather my Waymo car took an alternate route if the usual one is congested. And I’d have a pleased giggle if my phone offered to call mom when I pick it up around 6pm. I’d rather Search knew me and guessed which Oreo I’m searching about; as a non-native speaker I sometimes fall into search rabbit holes where I can’t seem to write the relevant query (I remember a “team vs roster” rigmarole, French doesn’t really differentiate those).
    – I couldn’t ascertain how successful duckduckgo is. They seem to be doing OK, but are they thriving, catching up, or just hanging on ? Is their userbase growing and how does their per-user revenue compare to Google and FB ? Archos is surviving as a phone OEM, it doesn’t mean Apple has weak/worse-than-them prospects…