“I kind of think Google read ‘Big Brother’ and took it as a career goal.” – Technology analyst Rob Enderle
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Back in January, I explained why, contrary to its infamous core philosophy, Google really is evil. Today, we know quite a bit more about the Silicon Valley behemoth’s future plans. And they’re chilling, if not downright nefarious.
When one of the most powerful companies on Earth uses our search terms, email content, location, and who knows what else to blast us with contextual ads, that’s concerning.
When that same company’s growth strategy is essentially to be everywhere and in everything – in your car, in your home, even on your person – that should send chills down your spine.
According to a newly released letter to the SEC, Google says it could be advertising “on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches” within a few years. And by saying those are “just a few possibilities,” what the search-advertising giant really means is those are just its current products in development.
I can’t tell you how relieved I am that they didn’t speculate beyond that. I don’t want to know.
While it’s tempting to think of a few ads as no big deal, let me tell you something. Unless I’m wrong – and I sincerely hope I am – what Google has planned will change your life. It will change everything. Here are just a few highlights of what the future may bring.
Have you heard about the cool Bone Conduction Transducer that enables Google Glass to transmit audio without needing a headset? How about the health monitoring technology that Google’s Android smartwatch will have when it’s released later this year?
Now combine the two and think about the possibilities. How long do you think it’ll be before ads start popping up in front of your eyeballs – even creepier, into your head – suggesting everything from Gatorade to Pfizer’s (PFE) new blood pressure medication?
How about the smart thermostat and Protect products Google (GOOG) acquired from Nest earlier this year? They are always connected, learn your habits, and accumulate an enormous amount of information through sensor arrays. They know when it’s day or night, if the lights are on, whether you’re home or not, even which room you’re in.
That’s great for lowering your energy bill or keeping your home from burning down, but that’s not all it’s good for. Once Google knows you’re in the kitchen, for example, it can send ads via your glasses, watch, tablet, or Android-enabled refrigerator insisting “It’s Miller Time” or “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.”
Never mind what happens when you enter the bedroom or, even worse, the bathroom.
Google is also working with car companies like Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai to enable smart, connected dashboards. You can be sure that any search for a bank, gas station, or fast food joint will result in an ad from the likes of Wells Fargo, Chevron, or McDonald's.
Those are just a few examples that come to mind, but when you add search term history, email content, and location awareness to all that personal information Google will accumulate from all its new devices and platforms, the only thing the company won’t know about you is your future.
And by invading your car, your home, and your person, there will come a day when there is literally no place left to hide from mindbogglingly intrusive ads. While there may very well be options to modify your ad preferences, I can tell you two things for sure: If it’s easy to do that, it will cost you. And if it’s free, it’ll be nearly impossible to figure out.
Last year Google rolled out its Enhanced Campaigns version of AdWords, meaning advertisers can now develop one ad campaign and have Google serve it “dynamically to the right user at the right time on whatever device makes the most sense,” according to the SEC letter.
So there you have it. The most powerful advertising platform on Earth will know more about you than God and be capable of reaching you anytime, anywhere. If that doesn’t freak you out, then you must be Larry Page, Sergey Brin, or Eric Schmidt. And if you’re still worried about the NSA spying on you, then you’re Edward Snowden.
In any case, hope you like ad slogans. Think I’ll trademark “Google Everywhere.”
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, former senior executive, columnist and author of the upcoming book, “Real Leaders Don’t Follow." Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting where he advises executives and business leaders on strategic matters. Contact Tobak.