It’s always great to get a chance to talk to Matt Cutts at search conferences though I didn’t have any good complicated search questions to bug him about this year. Matt is one of the early Google folks and arguably the most knowledgeable search expert in the world since he’s one of the few people who knows the Google algorithm inside out. Matt’s actually listed on the key Google search patent.
Today I noticed that Matt’s post about Google Chrome is near the top at Techmeme after some early reports suggested Google was going to nab all the info people created via use of the Chrome browser. Although I do not worry about Google stealing the content I create using their tools I was surprised in the discussion at Matt’s blog to see how people probably do not understand how much of your data from searches, emails, and other online tools is analyzed by search engines, ISPs, and probably at least a few government agencies. I wrote over there:
Well, I’m sure folks like Marshall knew that Google was not out to steal content. What people should be as concerned about is how the Chrome datastream will be processed now and over time, and how open will it be to examination by companies for advertising purposes ? Personally I’m OK with that but I think many people are not, and the lack of transparency in this area bothers me.
Somebody even suggested I was foolish to think they’d use Chrome data to target advertising, to which I replied:
Josh – you are naive to assume Google does so little with the search term data they explicitly say they have the right to collect. In Gmail, for example, some portion of your header is read by Google (probably just the title and not the content) so that ads can be targeted to you on those topics. Google Toolbar collects a lot of information and my understanding this helps target PPC advertisements though I’m not sure about that. As i noted I’m personally OK with this level of snooping, but I believe Google should make it much clearer what they do with the data they collect and probably also have options so users can delete any information they created – including their search streams – as they see fit.