What's Yours Is Google's Mine?
Google may have found one more clever way to squeeze juicy data out of its users: Get them to catalog their possessions online. There are some potential advantages to the user, of course, including having a nice tidy inventory for insurance purposes and setting up sharing and bartering opportunities with friends. Those probably pale in comparison to the advantages for Google and its advertisers, however.
Google is internally testing a new service, Google Mine, that will be integrated with Google+, according to the Google Operating System unofficial blog. It will let users list their belongings, post photos to a Mine album, and share and track their belongings with friends.
Think of it as Craigslist on steroids with a homey touch.
"It'll be like an eBay for sharing," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, "but the groups are pretty tight -- and only people you'll want to know what you have will know it."
Google Mine will be available online and on Android, according to GOS.
Concerns already have been raised that Google Mine is just one more way for the company to indulge its insatiable appetitie for user information.
"They know where you live, they know what you're reading, they know where you are at the moment, and now they'll know what's in your underwear drawer," remarked Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo.
Google was noncommittal, saying it had nothing specific to share but acknowledging that it's always experimenting with new features.
What Mine May Offer
Google Mine apparently will let users catalog what they have, list it to share with friends in their Google+ circles, post photographs of their possessions in a Mine album, track conversations, send requests to borrow friends' possessions, share their possessions, find people to give their stuff to, track their belongings, and follow, browse and search what their friends are sharing.
Users will be able to change the status of the objects listed to, for example, "lent," "given away," "got back," or "lost it."
Google Mine will let users post videos about their belongings, write reviews of items, add items to a wishlist, and ask other people to send them stuff by creating a post to their Google+ stream that's visible only to both parties.
"I'm not sure people will want to share their jewelry, though there are people who want to share guns," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "You'll probably see them sharing products in sports and gardening, and sharing tools."
It's likely that the service will work best between friends who live relatively close by, he continued.
New Blood For Google+, Perhaps?
Google Mine could be yet another in a long list of attempts by Google to inject some life into its flailing Google+ service, which had about half as many active users as Facebook, according to eMarketer.
"They're looking for an angle to differentiate Google+," Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld.
"I think it could be a good opportunity [to boost Google+] if it catches on," Retrevo's Eisner commented, "but I'm a little skeptical about its catching on because Google+ is still struggling."
All Your Data Are Belong to Us
Google's business model, like that of Facebook and other Internet companies, is to gather as much data about users as possible to let advertisers target them tightly, and it's possible that Google Mine will help refine the considerable amount of data Google has on its users even further.
Whether Google Mine will give rise to privacy issues is yet unclear. Google has had its struggles with privacy, especially after it combined all data on its users from all its services, and it is currently being targeted by privacy advocates in Europe.
"I don't see how privacy advocates can complain if people are willing to do something," Tirias Research's McGregor said.
"Anyone who uses this service should understand that the information can and will be used by Google. I just don't see the value to the consumer other than to brag about what they have," he added.
"This could be a gold mine for Google," Retrevo's Eisner told TechNewsWorld, because it will let the company provide more fine-grained data to advertisers. "But not so much for users."