From What Does Google Want Out of Your Voice?

A timely article has just appeared in asking what it is that Google gets out of offering the extensive storage and bandwidth needed to provide the free Google Voice. From the article:

Why is that so attractive? There’s a cynical guess, a reasonable line you can draw through their previous voice-based initiatives, and then there’s just a question mark the size of a server farm. The cynical guess is that, now that Google has unified their products under one privacy policy and one set of terms of use, Google Voice will be just another feeder for their vast database on you.

The article in also points out another possibility:

The reasonable line is that Google wants to get much, much better at speech-to-text, and at understanding what people really want when they say things out loud. By having all your friends leave their voicemails on your Google Voice account, then clicking to mark them as useful or not, and then further sending the message to Google if was a really bad miss, Google will get better at understanding all the ways that humans say things.

Although the “reasonable line” is almost certainly accurate, it may not be the complete picture. And regardless of the reasons Google is tracking voice patterns, the tracking would appear to be taking place. I make the following point about Google in the appendix to Information Age Management:

Google is open about the fact that it keeps search history, voiceprints, and much more information in order to profile its users, thereby increasing its business offerings to its partners. And Google is also collecting the data of the people you communicate with over these channels – whether they’ve agreed to Google’s terms of service or not.

Although there is every reason to think that Google keeps this data as secure as it can, it is a large amount of personal data for any organization to have. And there is no guarantee that it will be kept secure from future Google ownership, authoritarian governments, hackers, and other adversaries who want to benefit from this enormous resource.

To support this last point, I point the reader to the following article that appeared in on January 14, 2010:

My book continues this train of thought by proposing ways to find a good SaaS (Software as a Service) provider. To wit:

The best course of action when choosing an SaaS provider is to find one with a strong reputation for maintaining the integrity and security of its data and for maintaining robust privacy and data retention policies. Then talk to them about encryption and about adopting the AGPL.

You can read more about SaaS by purchasing Information Age Management or by downloading Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix with Pay-With-a-Tweet.

The article from is available here: