Facebook is beating Google in social. But Google has more pervasive, persistent data sources on consumers through its other apps and services, chiefly Gmail, Maps, Docs, Now, Drive, etc. They need the social graph piece, which is what Google+ was designed to address, but they have large pieces Facebook doesn’t have.
This is Facebook’s effort to close that gap. If they can get their phone platform into enough hands, they can begin to to do so; but that’s a big “if.” Google is facing a problem with it’s “open” Android, and competitors forking it to exclude Google from the data stream.
Android is a surveillance device. It’s the drone in your pocket. We’re all worried about government drones overhead, but Google’s put one in everyone’s pockets.
Facebook and Google are direct competitors. They’re both looking to sell highly predictive data to advertisers that identify likely “hot” prospects. For us, that means “relevant” intrusive ads. But it will go further than that. The predictive algorithms will be used to identify when we are most vulnerable to particular forms of influence through media or advertising. We are going to be be played.
These guys have very smart people working on this, because this is how they want to make their money, by empowering merchants. They are not interested in empowering us, whether you regard us as users, consumers or customers. We’re the product.
The tech press is enamored with smart people doing whizzy things with computers. Big data is the latest buzzword. And big data can do remarkably valuable things for us as a civilization. But we’re going to use it to sell crap. To extract more wealth from the middle and lower classes and funnel it to the corporations.
There is no skepticism from the press. No critical inquiry into what Google, and Facebook, are doing in their data centers with this data. We’re all worried about government drones overhead, but we’re willingly paying for the privilege of installing persistent, intrusive surveillance devices in our pockets; and if Google has its way with Glass, on our heads.
Apple makes its money selling shiny widgets. It sucks at big data, it’s not in its core mission. Apple is a latter day industrial company. It makes things. Google and Facebook are post-industrial companies. They don’t make things, they gather and manipulate data. And they’re not doing it for us. They’re doing it for major corporations.
Amazon is a retail outfit, and it’s also looking like it wants to get into the services business. It has some big data play as well, but they’re not as troubling, to my mind, as Google and now Facebook.
The other challenge will come when government decides that all that data has some sort of national security interest. What Google is doing is essentially what Total Information Awareness was supposed to do, although Google is looking for suckers, er, potential customers instead of terrorists.
And don’t imagine that all this data is anonymized. It may be in some legal sense, but all this data is logged and tracked. It can all be linked back together. Indeed, for this vision to have any meaningful validity, it cannot be effectively anonymous. They may not know your “name,” but they know the ID of the phone in your pocket. And how hard is it to connect those two data points?
It’s just remarkable to me that nobody sees this as a potential problem. People being exploited by big data, and the potential for government to use these surveillance efforts for whatever purposes governments like to use surveillance data for, sometimes not the public interest. J. Edgar Hoover, anyone?
But we’ll all whistle past the graveyard and write breathless stories about how Android is “winning,” and Google has fabulous pictures from the world’s highest peaks in its maps application. All the while empowering them to control and manipulate large segments of society, and extract ever greater amounts of wealth from the middle and lower classes to enrich the oligarchy.