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Google Loses Trust – Do YOU Trust Google?

By - December 16, 2008

I’d like to know: Do YOU trust Google? Let me know in the comments below.

Goog And Privacy

Regardless, it’s clear that citizens are realizing that Google has a lot of power. The worm inexorably turns.

Hence, this was predictable.


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33 thoughts on “Google Loses Trust – Do YOU Trust Google?

  1. David Orban says:

    My sentiments moved similarly during these two years, realizing how powerful Google has become. It is unavoidable that some of its actions would be outside of my definition of not being evil.

    I keep an open eye, and make my own choices, with regards to browsers (sticking to Firefox), search engines (nothing better than Google for the moment), etc.

    Google is going to become more powerful still in the coming years. The perception of conflict between its own “synergies” and needs, and the need of the public will greatly increase.

    They were already close to being investigated as a monopoly.

    Might it be that Google will be smart enough to split itself in two or more companies?

  2. If it wasn’t for Amazon’s #4 placing in the 2008 rankings, I would say the list is skewed toward how much money the companies spend on TV ads. eBay is much bigger on TV now than it was a year ago. Ditto Nationwide. Forget Amazon… it IS the TV ads.

  3. John,

    This is shooting from the hip a bit from my end, but with questions like this I tend to want to abstract a level and ask: what defines and generates trust? There are a couple of different potential inputs:

    * Track Record
    * Industry
    * Brand positioning
    * Corporate value prop
    * Size

    And I’m sure there are more. If you’re a company for which trust is particularly important, the strategy thus seems to be to weight and evaluate all the inputs, and then optimize across them. So, in Google’s case, the one-sentence strategy might be something like:

    “As we grow and increasingly control more and more user information, it’s incumbent upon us to 1) tweak or value prop and brand to identify us as “the most trusted web property,” and 2) work with our industry peers to ensure that there are no major privacy issues across the whole sector.”

    Again, I’m sure I’m leaving out inputs here, but if I got the sense Google was adopting such a strategy, I’d trust them more than I do currently, when they seem to continue to operate with little more than a continual “No, really, we promise” to their users. But what’s your take?

  4. Yu Yu says:

    I don’t really trust it, but I like it when they stand up for people’s rights in courts etc. I view Google as a “necessary evil”. After all we’ve all watched it grow up from a small search engine to what is now today. We (netizens) as a whole have contributed to its success. Plus we had a choice of search engines, it’s not like Microsoft where we were forced to use, where Microsoft dominated (at least for us in developing countries). Now we have to watch our own backs and point out the privacy stuff if we don’t like it. If Google does what AOL did with their customers’ emails, it’s going to be a bigger disaster. Hopefully, someone in Google is preventing that and other privacy disasters from happening.

  5. Popeye says:

    I don’t trust them at all.

    When they give us control over what they store about us then possibly.

  6. nmw says:

    To me, this sounds like people are beginning to listen to what I said maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Google wasn’t trustworthy back then, either — they’ve been harvesting the brand name they built up among geeks (like me) about 10 years ago since about 5 years now.

    People used to say I was a quack and then they would blindly follow “the leader” (which is how Google has amassed such a powerful position in the market). It has taken a lot of talking for me to wake people up to the fact Google’s brand name is not some “miracle cure” or a “100% guaranteed true” oracle (but unfortunately many novices have been more or less brainwashed to believe this).

    It’s nice to see that the tide is turning (or at least it seems to be). If people realize that Google is biased towards making money (as JG has often pointed out very well here), I expect Google’s bogus reputation will quickly sink like a stone. Personally, I find Google’s double standard of censoring other sites which promote good business practices — while on the other hand Google itself is permitted to push dubious ads about get-rich-quick schemes, medical enhancement treatments or other shady business deals — particularly repugnant.

  7. jeff bean says:

    The fun, vibrant primary colors and quirky name eventually take a backseat to a long-tail reach and access to our habits and interests. Do I trust AMEX? Not any more than the others on the list. AMEX could expose my spending habits through just one hack, and merchants who accept my card can also open me up to risk. Do I trust Google? I suppose I better. I’m typing this while using Google Chrome, as are likely many others. Remember the blogsphere’s gnashing of teeth about a year ago over Facebook Beacon? Times,they must be a changing.

  8. Harish TM says:

    The problem with Google, in my opinion, is the fact that a search engine has started hosting content.

    To me thats like having to ask a cab driver if the bus stop is too far.

    Consider the search results for ‘George bush’ on Google (http://is.gd/c6Ep) Yahoo (http://is.gd/c6Et) and Ask (http://is.gd/c6EF).

    Notice how each of them promote content from their own properties!!

  9. blink4blog says:

    1. i don’t trust company like Google will give up business trade-off with privacy.

    2. i don’t trust that innovation of Google on the Internet has totally no intrusion in privacy.

    3. i don’t trust my government as much as not trusting Google in terms of privacy. Looked, i just got spammed!

    4. trust of privacy is an option, not a luxury. we all don’t trust Microsoft but do we have a choice? can the world stop using Windows for the reason of privacy? nope. the only choice they have is to trust Microsoft to protect their privacy. leaving your safety to the hand of children.

    5. the chart benchmark could be biased, there is no solid measurement guideline that ensure the index is completely true.

  10. oyun says:

    People used to say I was a quack and then they would blindly follow “the leader” (which is how Google has amassed such a powerful position in the market). It has taken a lot of talking for me to wake people up to the fact Google’s brand name is not some “miracle cure” or a “100% guaranteed true” oracle (but unfortunately many novices have been more or less brainwashed to believe this).

  11. Andrew says:

    I trust them. They’ve been handling my email, search and RSS for ages and I can’t recall them doing anything I object to with any of that information. They’re one of very few search companies who refused to hand over random people’s data to the US government. I think they’ve earned my trust.

    I don’t immediately accept everything they say or expect to always agree with their decisions, or expect them to pass up business without a very solid reason, but I think that’s an unreasonable standard to hold them to.

    I’d rather they didn’t have a monopoly on ads, though, because that couldn’t be good for the web or for economies.

  12. Google is everywhere… Their not necessarily evil or try to get anybody… They do play fair for the most part, but uhhh… It is still too much power to give somebody over your life.. From generating traffic, to making money, to finding information, etc.

    Doesn’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon though… We’ll see what happens :)

    Mike
    http://www.wannadevelop.com/

  13. Scott says:

    As companies go, I trust Google quite a lot. I consider “trust” to be my prediction of their future behaviour with regard to the use of my data. When I say I trust them quite a lot, I mean that I am fairly confident that they will, in the future, make decisions about the use of my personal data of which I would approve. In turn, I think it is unlikely that they would do something with my data to which I would seriously object.

    I find that many people’s distrust of Google and its ilk stems from some perceived “capability” of abuse. “My Google, what large databases you have!” “The better to [insert hypothetical disaster scenario here].” As is often mentioned (and by Google, no less) if one is concerned with the amount of information a company has on its users, one need look no further for one’s paranoid outrage than the ISPs. They with their deep packet inspection tools know virtually everything you do online.

    Occasionally I encounter the rebuttal that “only Google” has the computational power / business incentive / requisite evilness to commit some morally abject or neglectful trespass upon its user’s privacy. I’m afraid I do not think so highly of Comcast, AOL, or the people who, in point of fact, actually were spying on their customers at the behest of the U.S. government, AT&T.

    Which is not to say that I blindly trust myself to Google. The continued scrutiny and vocal scepticism of Google’s privacy policies has strengthened the company’s attention to these issues, and in turn strengthens my trust in GOOG. As I said, I trust Google because I think it is unlikely they will use my data in a way I find compromising or objectionable. I make this prediction in large part because I know that the PR damage Google stands to suffer from the watchdog media would be severe and irreparable. It is largely thanks to the noisily distrustful crowd that I am able to enjoy such unperturbed piece of mind about the gigabytes of personal data tucked away in triplicate on Google servers.

    Should their future behaviour contradict my predictions, I will quickly re-evaluate my level of trust with the company. But for the moment, it runs very high.

  14. John says:

    I can’t make sense of the non tech companies like “johnson & johnson.” I don’t really know how I could not trust a company if all I buy from them is soap or window cleaner. They would never factor into my top 10 because I would just consider them non applicable to the issue. Maybe someone can explain this better?

    Apple won’t make it on my list until they let me keep my damaged hard drive or at the very least have it back after they determine the error. There’s nothing trustworthy about having to ship 200GB of my personal data off when it could be 100% avoided.

    Considering Google, people don’t realize that so many of the things they provide are open source. Their support and involvement in open source is amazing. They realize that this is a What other public company actively develops a web browser, a mobile OS, web framework and numerous other helpful software projects that can be reused by the masses. They still consider privacy seriously and part of their contribution to open source projects (even if they are their own) speaks to the issue.

  15. Jim says:

    I trust them to deliver quick search results. I trust them to deliver and receive my emails. I trust them to host my photos, videos, blog and rss feeds. I trust them to advertise my products and I trust their analysis of my website. But do I really “trust” them like I would AMEX or ebay? Are you kidding?

  16. oyun says:

    It’s nice to see that the tide is turning (or at least it seems to be). If people realize that Google is biased towards making money (as JG has often pointed out very well here), I expect Google’s bogus reputation will quickly sink like a stone. Personally, I find Google’s double standard of censoring other sites which promote good business practices.

  17. nmw says:

    I would expect SEO fans and link farm managers to defend Google, because they seem to depend on Google’s link-based ranking systems — if you ran a link-farm (or were an SEO consultant), wouldn’t you defend a link-based search engine (insofar as your income would depend on it)?

  18. Daina says:

    Where did Apple and HP come from? Very interesting

  19. JG says:

    I find that many people’s distrust of Google and its ilk stems from some perceived “capability” of abuse.

    Scott, let me disabuse you of this particular notion. My distrust of Google does not stem from a perceived capability of abuse. For the most part, I trust that Google is doing, and will continue to do, a fine and dandy job of keeping my information private.

    Rather, my distrust of Google stems from a disbelief in their objectivity, neutrality, and willingness to place the free flow of information above their desire to make money.

    I first came to my distrust of Google, for this very reason, back in 2002, way before most people even started using Google. It was in 2002 that I read the Google policy statement wherein they say: ‘You may not “meta-search” Google’.

    Here is a company that is built on the idea of open access to information, the willingness of webmasters to allow Google to index their information, make copies of web pages and images in perpetuity, and serve snippets of these web pages to millions of users all over the world. Without this good-will, if nobody allowed Google to freely index them, Google would have no business, because nobody would use a search engine that just served ads.

    So in this same spirit of openness and free flow of information, it seems completely reasonable that Google would allow others to index *its* pages, the way it indexes everyone else’s pages. More to the point, by allowing everyone else to index its results pages, it would allow the web to build and innovate on Google’s flow of information, the same way Google innovates by being able to build on the web’s flow of information. “Meta-searching” means that I (or anyone else) can “mash up” Google’s results with any other sources of information (e.g. Yahoo’s results) to come up with additional, novel information that is greater than the sum of the parts.

    Yet Google doesn’t allow this. There is then a hypocrisy, a disconnect, between what Google expects of the open web (what it takes) and what Google gives back to the open web.

    The moment I realized that, my distrust of Google started. Information is the most important commodity in the world (well, that, and clean water ;-). The web is built on the principle and foundation of “open source” information. And yet Google foundational principles run opposite or counter to “open source” information. What they say and what they do is different, and that causes me to lose trust.

    I only realized this in 2002.. I should have been smarter and realized it in 1998. But there are many who still don’t realize it, even today.

    But that is the source of my distrust of Google — the fact that it takes more than it gives, while simultanously trying to wrap itself in this aura of openness. I don’t trust a company that acts as brazenly double-faced as that.

    This does not mean my opinion cannot change. I am very open to having my opinion corrected. But I will believe it when I see it. And right now, I do not see it.

    For a similar discussion, read Danny Sullivan’s 2007 post, entitled “Google: As Open As It Wants To Be (I.e. When It’s Convenient)”

    http://searchengineland.com/google-as-open-as-it-wants-to-be-ie-when-its-convenient-12624.php

  20. nmw says:

    Yes: I agree, JG — and there have been some pretty damn good meta-search engines, too. I still would like to know what happened to ProFusion (see e.g. http://www.ittc.ku.edu/~sgauch/profusion.html ) and indeed: Google’s data retentive approach has frustrated much innovation.

    But that is not the only reason to distrust Google — oh, no!

    How about http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/Event.aspx?Event=33 ?

    Or ask a website owner who has been censored by Google — do you really think Google returns all of the results? LOL — if you think that, then you probably think Adolf Hitler told everyone that he was exterminating Jews?! (and protesters, too, BTW) I doubt very much that Google is going to bang the drum about every website they censor (believing that would be naive — especially because Google lawyers have repeatedly maintained that Google SERPs are merely the opinion or Google — nothing more, nothing less).

    People who think the Emporer’s New Clothes are fab have no one to blame but themselves — but all of society loses when it allows individuals to be misguided by misinformation.

  21. JG says:

    but all of society loses when it allows individuals to be misguided by misinformation.

    A-men. I cannot imagine a truer statement.

    and there have been some pretty damn good meta-search engines, too

    As I think I’ve said many times, my favorite metasearch engine was SavvySearch, circa 1995-1996. It was the first search engine that I ever used that had that “wow, this is so much better than anything I’ve used before — it feels like the web is actually useable” factor. And it did it before Google, and it did it without PageRank. In my perception, having used both from the very beginning, it was as good as Google, when Google first started.

    There has been, is, and continues to be end-user value to the concept of metasearch. It works.

    And the thing is, Google says that it values the end-user experience above everything else. They say they only do something if it benefits the users.

    So here is a clear case of something benefiting the users: Metasearch. But rather than do it, Google explicitly forbids it — dismissing both end-user utility as well as information openness.

    How am I supposed to trust a company that says it places user interests and user benefits first in any arena, when there is a clear, provable case of that same company not placing the user interest first, in their main arena (web search).

    I am serious. Will someone explain to me why or how I am supposed to trust a company that openly has and continues to behave this way?

  22. Andrew says:

    I find that many people’s distrust of Google and its ilk stems from some perceived “capability” of abuse.

    Scott, let me disabuse you of this particular notion.

    Well you’d be a fool to, because it’s demonstrably true. That and a misconception that a computer scanning your email for ad keywords is the same thing as a human snooping through your mail account for the vast majority of anti-Google stuff I’ve seen or heard.

    “Many people” is not the same as “everyone”, “informed people” or “you”. “Many people” are idiots.

  23. oyun says:

    Very interesting listen.ı have followed your writing for a long time.really you have given very successful information.
    In spite of my english trouale,I am trying to read and understand your writing.

  24. It was the first search engine that I ever used that had that “wow, this is so much better than anything I’ve used before — it feels like the web is actually useable” factor. Google says that it values the end-user experience above everything else. I supposed to trust a company that says it places user interests and user benefits first in any arena, when there is a clear, provable case of that same company not placing the user interest first, in their main arena. That and a misconception that a computer scanning your email for ad keywords is the same thing as a human snooping through your mail account for the vast majority of anti-Google stuff I’ve seen or heard.

  25. Brad Major says:

    Yeah it seems that google is taking some of microsofts thunder in that catagory

  26. Kaushal Shah says:

    I think its too late to rant about Google’s monopoly. They already have all the personal information. Its about making right choices for you to lessen the G – Effect.

  27. neo713 says:

    I trust Google to search for whatever I put into the search bar. Beond that no, however, I still trust them more than a few companies on that list.

  28. I love Google, despite people’s concerns about privacy. If we want to understand each other better and have open information in the world, less privacy is going to be a natural part of that.

  29. nmw says:

    @michelle the thing is: Google is not transparent. It’s more like: People are walking naked in front of Google’s cameras.

    Das ist nicht Gemütlichkeit!

    ;D nmw

  30. TruMarc says:

    I don’t trust Google.

  31. Yellow SEO says:

    What I find even more interesting then Google’s drop is that Apple has moved up alot on this list.

  32. Kameir says:

    Google plays of peoples laziness. It’s a blessing AND a curse. For the majority of Internet users Google IS the Internet: if its not ‘in’ Google it does not exist.
    This is not a good thing: When improving an algorithm means making LESS money.

  33. Jaap says:

    Never trust people that only want the best for you. Google does not regard personal privacy as high as I do. Google is big and mighty and not democratic. If governments did what google does, everybody would protest. Google wants to know everything of me and you, but would not want you to look at (or remove, or change) your own data in Google’s databases.