Wall Street Journal
Google Agonizes on Privacy As Ad World Vaults Ahead
Jessica E. Vascellaro
Wall Street Journal
. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 10, 2010. pg. A.1
Google is pushing into uncharted privacy territory for the company. [.
..] recently, it refrained from aggressively
cashing in on its own data about Internet users, fearing a backlash.
(c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Reproduced with permission of copyright owner. Further reproduction or
distribution is prohibited without permission.
Google Inc. is "moving very fast" to explore new uses for its database of users' online searches, Google founder
Larry Page said to reporters last month. In some editions Tuesday, a front-page article about Google's internal
discussions of commercial uses for its data failed to make clear that Mr. Page was referring specifically to using
search logs for such purposes as identifying public-health trends, rather than using its broad data for advertising.
(WSJ August 12, 2010)
[What They Know / A Wall Street Journal Investigation]
A confidential, seven-page Google Inc. "vision statement" shows the information-age giant in a deep round of soul-
searching over a basic question: How far should it go in profiting from its crown jewels -- the vast trove of data it
possesses about people's activities?
Should it tap more of what it knows about Gmail users? Should it build a vast "trading platform" for buying and
selling Web data? Should it let people pay to not see any ads at all?
These and other ideas big and small -- the third one was listed under "wacky" -- are discussed in the document,
which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and compiled in late 2008 by Aitan Weinberg, now a senior product
manager for interest-based advertising. Along with interviews with more than a dozen current and former
employees, the vision statement offers a candid, introspective look at Google's fight to remain at the vanguard of
the information economy.
Google is pushing into uncharted privacy territory for the company. Until recently, it refrained from aggressively
cashing in on its own data about Internet users, fearing a backlash. But the rapid emergence of scrappy rivals who
track people's online activities and sell that data, along with Facebook Inc.'s growth, is forcing a shift.
A person familiar with the matter called the vision statement a "brainstorming document" and said it wasn't
presented to senior executives. Some of its ideas are "complete non-starters," this person said. Efforts to reach Mr.
Weinberg weren't successful.
Still, several have been implemented. Among them: Last year, Google for the first time started collecting a new type
of data about the websites people visit, and using it to track and show them ads across the Internet.
Worries about the size of Google's data cache are "hypothetical," said co-founder Larry Page last month in