Google's Watching You
Google's Watching You
2005-11-15 12:47:30 by Andrew Hitchcock G+
Yesterday Google released Analytics, their web statistics and tracking software. Analytics is Google's rebrand of Urchin, which they bought back in March. When I first tried yesterday, I wasn't able to login, and when I finally was able to, the website crawled. I managed to get the code, put it on this website, and activate tracking, but nothing has appeared yet. They told me to expect the first data to trickle in within 12 hours... yet it has been 25. Hopefully they'll throw some more machines at it so we can actually start using the software.

For the last few years I haven't been keeping logs because it was a hassle managing them and if my hard disk filled up, Apache would stop responding to requests. The only thing that really bothered me was not knowing which search queries people used to find my website. Although, it'll also be nice to see the break down of browsers and operating systems.

Before long, it seems Google will know about nearly every web request. Think about all the ways they can track you: AdSense, Analytics, Web Accelerator, and eventually through free wireless access points. Not only that, but they are already hosting a large amount of content: Blogger, Print, Video, and soon Base. It is interesting to ponder a Googlenet: everything hosted by Google and ran through Google's pipes; sort of like what AOL was doing for a while. I know it will never reach that point, but it could make some interesting science fiction.

With any other company, I'd be very afraid of what they would do with this power, but I have more faith in Google. Some may think my faith is unfounded, but I do have some reasons. Google was started with the idea of providing a great user experience while not taking at advantage of users ("Do no evil"). A lot of people trust Google, and Google has a lot riding on that trust; if they try to sneak one past the users, people will find out and it will seriously hurt their reputation (Google Print is on the edge of that for many people... I wish Google would tread a little more carefully with Print). Also, Google has hired a number of open source programmers/gurus, who — almost by definition — are optimists. Off the top of my head, there are three people who I had known about from the open source world and then later learned they moved to Google (in addition to the people from Google that I've learned came open source projects). Also, Google gave approximately a million dollars to college students to work on open source over the summer, and another million to the projects they worked on. At this time, Google does not show evidence of doing evil. However, I am slightly worried that in 20-30 years, or when the founders retire, their corporate philosophy will fall more toward the evil side, and that is when we will have to become worried. You know what they say about absolute power.
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