Why Won’t Google Let Us Move Our Search Data?

When asked at the Web 2.0 Summit Google CEO Eric Schmidt answered when asked that Google would like to allow people to export and move their search data “as long as it’s authenticated”. Greg Yardley states on his blog that he’d like to see it, and asks “is this going to actually take place?”

While I can’t rule it out obviously, I was there when this question was asked, and it seemed to me like Schmidt was trying to blow it off and spit out the authentication piece as a tricking sounding phrase that the audience would assume meant there was some huge technical challenge they had to overcome first.

There isn’t. How hard would it be for Google to allow you to login to your Google Account and click a button to export your search history in various formats? Google routinely tackles far more difficult tasks on a daily basis. So, I think the real story is that they either aren’t planning to do this at all, or they are at least not ready to do so.

Why? Well, Google profits from owning/holding our data, in fact many companies do. They don’t want to be so quick to give it up.

Ross Levinsohn of Fox Interactive was also asked if Myspace would allow users to export their data and take it to other services. Ross referred the question asker to Tom Anderson’s email address and simply said they’d talked about the idea.

  • http://gotads.blogspot.com John K

    I wondered about that phrase too. It could mean: “As long as we can make sure people won’t get unauthorized access”, but according to your context, it has “stall” written all over it.

    I don’t think Google does many things that allow others to disintermediate Google. And I think that’s concious. (Which is OK as a shareholder, but hard to square against the image of “Don’t be evil”)

  • http://www.conversionrater.com/ Pat McCarthy

    Yeah John, and he actually followed that by saying something about “making sure people were properly logged in to their accounts”. So I’m pretty sure he was just meaning that you can only import your search data if you’re logged in, which is obviously not a technical challenge at all.

  • JoeG

    “Well, Google profits from owning/holding our data, in fact many companies do.”

    The implication of this statement is that we hold a clear right to the information our activities inherently create. This isn’t necessarily true. I do believe strongly in our right to privacy – Google shouldn’t be selling personally identifiable lists of all the querying people do – but I’m not sure that idea can necessarily be extended to ownership. You use Google’s service which is a part of their infrastructure that they paid for – I think that gives them a pretty strong argument for ownership over the data left behind by people that use their service.

  • http://www.conversionrater.com/ Pat McCarthy

    I think you are correct JoeG, however you’re implying that I’m saying we do have ownership. My point was more that Google was skirting the issue by saying they’ll get around to it when they can figure out how to do a trivial technical task.

    I would have rather seen Schmidt say “You use our service for free, we have rights to that data, so we don’t feel we have to allow you to export it.”

    That would have been a much more honest answer.

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