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Patents Businesses Google The Internet

Google Profiling Social Network Users 96

David Harry writes "Google is looking deeper into behavioral targeting of social network users with three more patents. A while back, one patent came to light in the poorly termed ‘friendrank’; Google could be profiling social network users. These three patents now bring the series to five in total."
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Google Profiling Social Network Users

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  • Sounds painful.
  • by InspectorxGadget ( 1230170 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:12AM (#25273505)
    Profliling - coming soon to a fliling center near you!
  • I'm reasonably confident Google _COULD_ do lots of things...

    • by Mex ( 191941 )

      From the 10 year evolution of Google that I've seen, I've no doubt that they will.

  • Great googly moogly! But wait, they can do no evil!!!

    Is this Total Information Awareness outsourced AND making a profit?

    • No, they don't want you to be/do evil. Its just competition after all. They get to be as evil as they desire.

      insert Snidely Whiplash moustache twirl
  • by yttrstein ( 891553 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:18AM (#25273577) Homepage
    How many people are genuinely surprised every time Google does anything to arouse suspicion (at least six times per day) or downright confirm (at least twice per week) that one of the major points to their monolithic presence in world--and not just the tech world--is data mining?

    I honestly don't understand. It's been quite clear for a number of years that Google has no problem selling jewels from their data mines to marketing clients who want them, mostly in the form of "targeted advertising".

    Of course Google is profiling social network users. Someone has to figure out what they want to buy.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...Google has no problem selling jewels from their data mines to marketing clients who want them, mostly in the form of "targeted advertising".

      And the only reason people aren't swearing off google.com is that their not really selling the jewels. Google is doing the targeting themselves. They are NOT selling your data to advertisers. They are placing the ads themselves.

    • by veganboyjosh ( 896761 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:57AM (#25274011)
      Someone has to tell them what they want to buy.

      Fixed that for you.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by yttrstein ( 891553 )
        It also never ceases to amaze me why slashdot comment scores go up in the presence of this sort of comment. I can tell by your nickname "veganboyjosh" that you're probably pretty angry about your perception of giant, "evil" entities pushing around the "little guy", telling him or her what he or she wants, thinks, believes, et cetera.

        In no case is it that clear cut. You and your lot who appear to enjoy thinking in terms of "perpetrator" and "victim" fail to take into account the fact that these giant and w
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And thus it is that these ordinary guys just like you and me can go to work every day, honing new and improved methods to take advantage of the cognitive blind spots we all have, in order to make advertising even more effective. One day we'll look back and wonder at what point we went wrong.

        • by jvkjvk ( 102057 )

          It also never ceases to amaze me why slashdot comment scores go up in the presence of this sort of comment. I can tell by your nickname "veganboyjosh" that you're probably pretty angry about your perception of giant, "evil" entities pushing around the "little guy", telling him or her what he or she wants, thinks, believes, et cetera.

          In no case is it that clear cut. You and your lot who appear to enjoy thinking in terms of "perpetrator" and "victim" fail to take into account the fact that these giant and wild entities like Google are made up of individual people who, at every level, are more or less just like everybody else.

          Sorry, you do not get to dismiss legitimate concerns by name calling. Even if you are using the latest right wing reverse pop-psychology twist by painting your opponent as a "victim thinker" in no case is it that clear cut. It's pretty sad. You can't seem to accept the fact that there are people who see victims of large corps out there because there are actually victims of large corps out there.

          The central plank of these paragraphs also seems rather tenuous. You seem to say that corporations can't be hel

        • by spicate ( 667270 )

          If someone rolls over when told what to buy, even in the most subtle marketing terms, it's entirely their own fault.

          First of all, in this case, it doesn't matter what the people working at Google believe as much as it matters what they do. Even if they aren't "evil" people, their actions can have serious consequences.

          Second, I understand the appeal of reframing every social problem in terms of personal responsibility, but your moral grandstanding isn't a solution. While I don't think we're just dumb automatons who will buy whatever we're told, the issue of Google both being a gatekeeper of information (via search) as wel

        • I can tell by your username that you regularly have seizures when filling out user profile forms, but that doesn't say anything about the quality of your post or anything like that.
        • by foobsr ( 693224 )
          these giant and wild entities like Google are made up of individual people

          Wondering how to get 'a job' with an individual CV.

          convert as many people around them to their way of thinking

          To make it even more individual?

          CC.
      • by D Ninja ( 825055 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @12:18PM (#25274275)

        Someone has to tell them what they want to buy.

        Sort of a funny story I have pertaining to this.

        After my girlfriend broke up with me, we changed our Facebook status to "Single." The next day, I was on Facebook and I noticed an eHarmony advertisement that said the following:

        "27 and single? PATHETIC. Visit eHarmony.com to find singles in your area."

        It's funny now, but I sort of wonder what kind of world we live in where you're "pathetic" for not being in a relationship. That part is sort of sad, really.

        • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

          Calling me pathetic would be a 100% sure fire way to make sure I never visited your website.

          Besides, Plenty of Fish [plentyoffish.com] is free.

          • by D Ninja ( 825055 )

            OKCupid [okcupid.com] is even better. Has a psychological spin to it (head to the site and you'll see what I mean), and is very clean/put together nicely/etc. Even uses Google's API for IMs, so bonus to them.

            • I use okcupid (am a girl, too!) I like it.
            • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

              OkCupid has been spamming me for over a year & a half & won't stop. Yes, I've opted out. I've marked them as spam & I'm still getting crap from them cause they keep switching up email servers or something. Either that or they've got a sweet deal with Yahoo. I actually have a girl at the moment & really don't need their assistance now.

        • by Kynde ( 324134 )

          It's funny now, but I sort of wonder what kind of world we live in where you're "pathetic" for not being in a relationship. That part is sort of sad, really.

          Apparently you live in a different world. This is /.
          Rather than pathetic it's more like status quo here.

        • by fuzza ( 137953 )
          I really don't know what to make of the Facebook ads... I get the eHarmony ones too, and I've been listed as Engaged for 9 months now. :-/
  • Not Alone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:18AM (#25273579)
    If people think that Google is the only advertiser who's profiling people, they're daft. Any and every advertiser with a hint of intelligence studies their target audience and does everything within their power to know them better than they know themselves. Google just has more tools at their disposal than most advertising firms but they all do it.
    • If people think that Google is the only advertiser who's profiling people, they're daft. Any and every advertiser with a hint of intelligence studies their target audience and does everything within their power to know them better than they know themselves. Google just has more tools at their disposal than most advertising firms but they all do it.

      Even more important than Google's large toolbox is the exceptionally large size of their user base, and the fact that Google knows the email addresses and real names of a large fraction of that base.

    • Precisely! You know those membership savings cards grocery stores give you? It's a trade-off. They give you a small discount in the name of "member's savings", and in turn, you give them your shopping habits. So every item you ever buy through them with that card gets recorded. It lets them pinpoint what consumers like buying, so they stock up more on the hot sellers.

      And I'm pretty sure that the grocery stores do not keep this information to themselves...

      • It lets them pinpoint what consumers like buying, so they stock up more on the hot sellers.

        They can easily know what consumers in general are buying by keeping track of inventory. There is no need to know what a specific individual buys in order to know what to stock in the store.

        I can only speculate as to what their real motives for tracking individuals. Most likely the supermarkets/gas stations/etc... are selling it to a private company who does God knows what with the information.

        • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

          My family has saved over $8000 since we signed-up for Winn-Dixie's shopper card, so I think it may be a fair trade off. I don't remember exactly when we got it, but I know we've had it longer than 6 years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DrEldarion ( 114072 )

          Of course it's useful to track that information down to a specific person. One example: Say you put milk on sale for $2/gallon. Are the people who are buying milk this week new customers, or are they the same old people who have been visiting your store? Tracking information like that is insanely useful.

          Put it in technical terms - in website logs, would you rather just have an overview of traffic data (you received 10,000 visits today), or do you actually want to see each request, where it came from, what p

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          It's not as nefarious as you think, but there is considerable value in tracking what you buy as a single consumer, both to you and to the store. The store would rather maximize value per consumer, than necessarily maximize sales. By maximizing sales from a smaller amount of consumers, they can potentially reduce inventory, and reduce labor, thus increasing profit for a given amount of sales. By tracking not just what was sold, but associations between goods sold, you can find out some interesting things

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I think it's also worth mentioning that the social networks themselves are profiling people. There's a reason they want you to enter your occupation, educational background, yearly income, and all other types of information.

      What drives me the most crazy is Facebook actually creates search pages for search engines to index. I'm the kind of person who likes my words to be seen by everybody, but my pictures to be under my own control. So I searched for myself on Google and found that not only do they put my na

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:28AM (#25273693) Homepage

    Seriously, this is a surprise?

    The world's biggest commercial data search and profiling company is going to profile yet more online, public information.

    I just wonder if the folks at Langley will sit up and say "prior art".

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:33AM (#25273739) Journal
    Do no evil? Hardly,... when Google became a publicly traded company their obligation became one thing..

    Make money for stockholders

    Few companies set out to do bad deeds but most won't rule them out. Google was supposed to be different. Regarding "Don't be evil"(tm), CEO Eric Schmidt recently clarified the policy saying that it was simply meant as a conversation starter.

    Here's Google from good to bad...
    Plus
    Creating a foundation to fight poverty.
    Plus
    Establishing on-site day care as an employee perk.
    Minus
    Giving Brazilian police access to private photo albums on Orkut to assist an investigation into child pornography.The lesser of two evils is still pretty lame
    Minus
    Google's on going smear campaign against Privacy International [google.com] for giving them a last place rank.
    Bigger Minus
    Raising cost of on site day care to $57,000 per year.
    Real big minus
    Instituting keyword filters at the request of the Chinese government. Google's do no evil policy only applies to the U.S.
    Source: Wired 16.10

    Honestly why should anyone be surprised that Google acts like any other company?
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @11:40AM (#25273809) Homepage
      To be fair, by far the majority of companies do not act in this fashion. They respect the privacy of their staff, they respect the privacy of their customers and of course they respect the privacy of total strangers. Only one very narrow segment of the industry continuously and very perversely invades the privacy of every one they can upon a massively and previously unheralded basis and think it is appropriate to attempt to psychologically manipulate people based upon their personal information in order to generate a profit at all costs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by spydabyte ( 1032538 )
      Congratulations. You just summed up the entire 13 year history of Google in 6 bullet points.

      Next time, try and broaden [google.com] your biased view.
      • Congratulations. You just quoted Wired Magazines summary of the entire 10 year history of Google in 6 bullet points.

        There. Fixed that for ya.

        I mean, the page you linked to, does dub itself as Google's 10th birthday.

    • by Asdanf ( 1281936 )
      Google's done some bad shit, but it always annoys me when people list "filtering in China" as the worst. Google had a choice: filter in China, or don't serve any pages to China. Filtering is a prerequisite for doing business there.

      And it's not like China would have caved in and reversed their laws in order to get Google. Google isn't the #1 search engine in China. The most popular is Baidu, which - unlike Google - doesn't even notify users that results have been filtered.

      Google gives the Chinese a cha

    • by D Ninja ( 825055 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @12:26PM (#25274399)

      Google bashing, huh? Ooo, fun!

      Seriously, though. Your "evil" points are somewhat weak.

      Creating a foundation to fight poverty.

      I'll agree. That's a good thing. Although, some people will argue that they're just using it to get the tax breaks.

      Establishing on-site day care as an employee perk.

      You have that down as a plus. But, if I don't have kids, that means my benefits are going towards something I don't use. Sounds kind of evil to me.

      Giving Brazilian police access to private photo albums...

      Private? How so? Private as in Picasa's "private" where it just means you don't come up in searches (but if you know the address, you can still find the album)? Or private as in password protected, etc. Also, the albums that they were given access to - were these people already under investigation. Was Google forced to give that information?

      Google's on going smear campaign against Privacy International [google.com] for giving them a last place rank.

      I don't know this one, so I can't speak to it.

      Raising cost of on site day care to $57,000 per year.

      From what? $56,000? $0? Either way - how does this make them evil? Daycare is freaken expensive. I can't believe people use it to be honest. The fact that Google is charging someone for this is not a big deal. I don't know of any place that offers this sort of service at all.

      Instituting keyword filters at the request of the Chinese government. Google's do no evil policy only applies to the U.S.

      Oh, now, you had to go there. See, at the surface level, Google did evil. They filtered words. BAD GOOGLE! The problem is, if they didn't do that, they would have NO influence in China. What's worse? For them to get their foot in the door and follow protocol now and try to influence change later, or never be there in the first place? It's easier to influence from the inside than it is from the outside. Once Google becomes ubiquitous in China, they will carry a lot more sway. Hopefully that use that to help the people there.

      Anyway, your cynicism is definitely well-deserved - lots of companies screw up (because they are run by people and people screw up). But, I just can't say I agree with the issues that you chose (either way).

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Maybe Google should change their motto to "Do less evil", because that is what they do. Be objective, in their position they could be far far worse.
    • I don't think employees having to pay for daycare is a 'Bigger Minus' from a global POV. As for China, look at what every EVERY other major search engine did. Worse, they hand over information that get people imprisoned for sedition. Google however refused to do any of that. Google was given the option of following Chinas laws or leaving. They pushed and got around one. As well the great firewall of china was already doing the censoring. Now if you visit google in china (try a proxy) you get a warning sayin

    • by dcw ( 87098 )

      Minus Giving Brazilian police access to private photo albums on Orkut to assist an investigation into child pornography.The lesser of two evils is still pretty lame

      If I am reading this right, Lore Sjöberg http://www.wired.com/services/feedback/letterstoeditor [wired.com] is saying that, Google, by allowing police access to investigate child pornography charges, makes Google 'Evil'?!?! If some freak was storing images of someone raping a toddler on hardware my company owned, he'd be lucky if I the only thing I did was allow the police access to his crap. How is this action a 'lesser' evil?!?! If Google turned over every single picture of child pornography from hardware they o

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  • Purple friendrank -- I'ma grip and sip.

    • by caller9 ( 764851 )
      Just have to say LMFAO @ purpledrank. Syp-syp-sypin on som' sysurip. Gota screw it down on the third coast. jebus, that's funny.
  • Facebook seems to be already doing forms of user profiling.

    Back when my account was newish, I noticed that the ads on the side panel where app advertisers would advertise their app with "Your friend [insert name here + show thumbnail pic] is using [facebook app X]. Start using [facebook app X]!"

    The thing is, that siderbar ad panel would advertise using the profiles of my friends whose pages I'd statisitically visited the most.

    It was kinda creepy the way facebook did that.

    Youtube also does someth
  • Okay, this is totally off topic-- but could whoever keeps tagging every single story with 'story' please stop? Every story is-- guess what-- a story! Adding a "story" tag is not a useful piece of information. Might as well just tag every story with "IsTagged", too.
  • by paniq ( 833972 ) on Monday October 06, 2008 @12:01PM (#25274067) Homepage

    I hope that all this uncomfortable profiling is really going to improve the ads I'm going to see.

    But how will I know when it works? Maybe when they start selling penis shrinking pills.

  • I want to be a part of a vast online social networking where everyone knows everyone else's personal information, but no company will be able to infiltrate that and make money off of that"

    i'm not letting google off the hook, i'm just wondering why anyone thinks this won't happen

    is it wrong? is it right? utterly besides the point. it's going to happen, no matter how right or wrong you think it is, no one can stop it

  • google should get into following projects as well --- - Worldwide Google Security Number agency (something like Social Security Number)
    - Run Spy Agency (They already know many more things about us than probably we know about ourselves)
    - Visa/Passport Agency
    - Start Television channels (They already have satellite)
    Iâ(TM)m sure they can definitely run targeted ads on Set-Top boxes
    - Start Hospitals
    - Start schools (All kind of)
    - Start building military applications and

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