What is Google Up To?

Category: Privacy

Google has been on a buying spree lately, snapping up other companies left and right. But the acquisitions are not what you might expect; not smartphone makers, Web services, ad networks, or search-related software developers. No, Google is investing in artificial intelligence, robots, and smart gadgets for the home. Here's some speculation about how all those things might fit together...

Is Resistance Futile?

On January 26, 2014, Google announced plans to buy Deepmind, a quiet little British startup that combines machine learning and system neuroscience to produce a powerful general-purpose learning machine. The price was not disclosed but rumors put it in the mid hundred-millions range.

Shortly before buying Deepmind, Google stunned the world by paying $3.2 billion in cash for home-automation device maker Nest Labs, whose best-known product is a thermostat.

And that’s not all; Google also recently purchased another AI startup called DNNresearch, and a handful of small robotics researchers. What is The Goog after with all of these purchases?

Is Google Trying to Take Over the World?

Some think it’s Amazon that Google’s after. The search giant seems to be working hard and systematically on its shopping service for both consumers and retailers. The robotics firms might be bringing to Google new talent who will develop a robot that jumps out of a driverless Google car and races to drop a package on your doorstep. Google's fleet of self-driving cars has already driven 500,000 accident-free miles, so why not create a robotic alternative to FedEx, UPS or the postal service?

It sounds futuristic, but is it any more far-fetched than Amazon's idea of delivering packages via helicopter drones?

What about the thermostats, and the smart smoke alarms that Nest recently added to its product line? Speculation is that Google is trying to infiltrate every aspect of our lives with devices that are aware of us and what we are doing, and capable of sending their observations back to Google via the same Internet that makes them so smart and convenient for us. Why would Google want to out-spy the NSA?

Targeted advertising is still Google’s biggest money maker, by far. The better its dossier on you, the more it has to sell to marketers. Did your Nest smoke alarm recently detect burning food? Time to send you ads for pizza delivery, cooking school, or fire extinguishers. Or was it a major fire that required emergency responders? Time for ads about home improvement and remodeling, furniture, clothing, and lawyers who deal with insurance companies.

Will You Be Assimilated?

The AI software ties together all of the pieces of Google’s grand plan. A new kind of search algorithm is needed to make subtle, human-like inferences from the many disparate sources of data that Google is collecting on millions of people. This new software is so complicated that human programmers cannot maintain it, let alone improve it. It has to be able to learn from experience and refine its own artificial judgment – like a human being.

This vision of a Google-branded HAL 9000 or Skynet scares some people. Others trust in Google’s beneficence. After all, the company’s motto is still “Don’t Be Evil,” right?

What do you think Google is up to with all of these acquisitions? Does its relentless pursuit of personal data worry you? Are you doing anything to keep Google at bay, or being happily assimilated by the Borg? Your thoughts and comments are welcome, as usual.

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Most recent comments on "What is Google Up To?"

Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

Google is smart but not that smart. All these "things" Google is doing are to SELL you something.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

When it was first announce that Google was harvesting personal information (TO SELL), I deleted everything 'Google' off my computer... Every so often I put Google in the URL window when Bing lags on some info I'm searching.

My 2 questions are :
1. If/When I use Google, are they 'swiping' all my personal data while I'm searching?
2. Does Google download snippits onto my hard drive while I'm connected to them?

Answer those two for me Bob...

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hmmm, I must have missed the announcement that Google was harvesting and selling personal information. Can you provide a source for that?

No, Google isn't swiping anything from you. They do display targeted, relevant ads, based on the content of the websites you're visiting. But their privacy policy does not permit them to compile and sell your personally identifying information. As for the second question, you may be thinking of cookies, which I believe are quite benign. Here are two links to learn more:


Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

Thanks for this interesting information. You always seem to find timely and important topics to present. As for the Google acquisitions, the intent appears to be no different than all effort to consolidate power over people, whether it is government, academia, medical and pharmaceutical companies, or religious organizations such as the Vatican. Unfortunately the population of the world is made up mostly of "sheeple", who want to trust these power mongers, patronize them and give them even more power, until they find themselves totally enslaved, and looking back at "the good old days of freedom". Americans know that we are hopelessly in debt and cannot escape a catastrophic implosion of our consumer system, but they couldn't care less. For now.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

I guess after Amazon, wally world will be next.Are we in trouble or what.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

Several years ago, when Google did something (can't even remember what now) that made me a little queasy about their Big Brother-ness, I cancelled all my Google connections. Unfortunately, when I acquired an Android phone from T-Mobile, one of the carrier/manufacturer requirements was a gmail account. So I reconnected. But it functions mostly as my throw away account -- the one I give when some random entity requires an email address. I still don't like Google's seeming need to expand its reach into every nook and cranny of our lives.

Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

Actually, it's a simple Contract. Google provides a relatively free ecosystem of Services (Cloud storage, Youtube, Docs, Photo Sync, etc)in exchange for the opportunity to serve Ads to you for things that you actually might want. Kinda like a free enterprise Model is supposed to work. And, the more they know about you, the better they can determine what it is that you might want. For those that are paranoid of this, go elsewhere for these goodies. (However, beware et tu Brute?)

Posted by:

07 Feb 2014

One of Google's operating systems *is* called "Android", after all...

Posted by:

08 Feb 2014

we can't stop them, like Pete said, Sheeple

Posted by:

Art Frailey
08 Feb 2014

I'm not sure Google is steeling like Facebook and one or two others I won't name.
Facebook is rather two faced, and you rarely know which face you see until too late. For example: I may receive a message that someone (whom I may not even know) wants to share something with me.
Most of the time I cannot even contact this person. Sometimes, several other people my be displayed who they offer to make me a Friend on Facebook. Sometimes those people do not even know that their name appeared to me.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2014

Some of these replies just make me shake my head with all the paranoia. If you think Google is out to get you, then stay offline and look in the encyclopedia. While your at it, stay away from a lot of the sites you go to because they have your info, some of it what you give them and other info you aren't aware of. This is the way it is and all sites that want to will collect whatever they can and use it however they want. I applaud Google for letting me know some of the things that are being done with my information, and I trust them that cops won't show up at my door, or creditors won't take my house, just because of the things Google collects from me. If you don't trust what Google has on you, just stay off the internet because there are a lot more organizations that have the same information that you probably unknowingly provided that I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw my fat sister. If I wan't an answer to something, Google does a great job of finding it for me and it doesn't tell me who, where, why or a phone number of who provided the info to me unless that person wanted it known. It takes a government order for any info to be released. Welcome to the 21st Century.

Posted by:

08 Feb 2014

The world is not enough . . .

Posted by:

08 Feb 2014

Companies have always looked for ways to profile the consumer base to target better ads via a variety of methods. However, if I finance a car or mortgage a home, the people involved in those purchases (including the employees at the dealership and real estate agency) are privy to what I consider far more sensitive data than whether or not I read restaurant reviews on the Internet or am interesting in buying a TV. Yet, most of us have likely financed a car or mortgaged a home. So, I'm not too concerned that Google may know that the person with my email address, located at my IP address, might be searching for new Chevrolets.

As far as Google goes, based on my surfing habits, Google can't even guess my gender correctly. Google thinks I'm a man. (I'm a middle aged woman. So much for Google's collection of supposedly highly sensitive personally identifying information.

Posted by:

09 Feb 2014

Could be ignorance on my part, but I don't understand the big "privacy" fuss, someone please explain it to me.
I enjoy Google and their services: if they're "spying" on my web activities to bring me more relevant ads - so what?

Posted by:

09 Feb 2014

I do not think there is any evil intent. They are just diversifying and positioning themselves for THE NEXT BIG THING, which will be robots, robots everywhere, tiny robots in your body, and larger robots everywhere in your home.........Remember, a self driving car is just a big robot....

Posted by:

10 Feb 2014

Still waiting for that free nationwide Wi-Fi Google has been working on for years..........

Posted by:

10 Feb 2014

Google are crooks!

Posted by:

10 Feb 2014

Am I supposed to feel comforted that big companies need a reminder to not be evil?

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