The real plus from Google Plus is for Google itself, according to the New York Times. It has highlighted how Google is increasingly trying to coral internet users into signing into Google Plus, even if they don’t use the social media platform, in order to profit from bringing together of user information from all of the suite of Google products.
The Times says that Plus “is central to Google’s future — a lens that allows the company to peer more broadly into people’s digital life, and to gather an ever-richer trove of the personal information that advertisers covet…
“The reason is that once you sign up for Plus, it becomes your account for all Google products, from Gmail to YouTube to maps, so Google sees who you are and what you do across its services, even if you never once return to the social network itself.
“Before Google released Plus, the company might not have known that you were the same person when you searched, watched videos and used maps. With a single Plus account, the company can build a database of your affinities.”
“The database of affinity could be the holy grail for more effective brand advertising,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester studying social media and marketing.
But the article highlights a pushback against this intrusive behaviour. Some of the founders of YouTube have removed their content from the site because of the new requirement to hold a Google Plus account in order to comment. Being required to sign into one product in order to access a previously independent one raises anti-trust issues, particularly given that Google is using its dominance in search to promote a product, Plus, that is far less successful that its competitors.
“If you want Google search, they’re going to shove Google Plus at you pretty hard, so the consumer’s forced to take the product they don’t want to get the product they want,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who studies antitrust law and the Internet. “That raises big questions under antitrust law.”
It will be interesting to watch whether Google does face new anti-trust actions in Europe or the US. But the message to users is clear: avoid Google Plus. Sign in once, and you help the snoopers create their G File on you.