Google Mine Wants To Track Your Stuff

Google reportedly is testing Google Mine, a Google+ offshoot that lets you share info about your real-world objects. Sounds more like a gold mine for Google.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

June 21, 2013

4 Min Read

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Google appears to be testing a Google+ service designed to help catalog, track and share information about possessions with friends.

According to the blog Google Operating System, the service is called "Google Mine," a name that just happens to echo the company's interest in data mining.

"Google Mine lets you share your belongings with your friends and keep up to date with what your friends are sharing," a purported screenshot of the service explains. "It enables you to control which of your Google+ Circles you share an item with. It also lets you rate and review the items, upload photos of them and share updates on the Google+ Stream where your friends get to see and comment on them."

Asked to confirm the existence of this service, Google in an emailed statement said only, "We are always experimenting with new features to help improve people's online experience, but have nothing specific to share at this time."

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The name is more than a double entendre. It's likely to be a lie, assuming the service is governed by Google's privacy policy. The information I provide to Google Mine will not really be mine anymore; it will be Google's to use. Technically, the information might be mine, but what does that mean when I have granted Google a license that brings most of the benefits of ownership? What's mine is theirs.

It's a brilliant labor exploitation scheme. Google has profited from the work of others before. Its PageRank algorithm extracted the effort that went into creating Web links and used that work to create a better search engine. Its YouTube service rose to prominence on the copyrighted content of others and then turned around and won over content makers by allowing them to monetize the infringement the service facilitated. Its Google+ social network turns users' keystroke labor into commercially relevant data that Google can monetize.

But Google Mine extends Google's data mining into new territory: Real-world interactions and objects. It aspires to create an Internet of Things with pointers rather than direct Internet addressability.

Google proposes the following uses for its service: reviewing your possessions for the benefit of your friends; sending requests to borrow items; sharing things you wish for; soliciting recommendations for things; giving items away; browsing possessions friends have shared.

In short, the company wants content that it can monetize without paying anyone. When Google, Facebook or other social networking services invite you to share, they want your work as payment for the "free" service you're receiving. (This desire went unfulfilled with Google Knol.)

Google Mine in theory could provide Google with data similar to's vast knowledge of its customers' possessions. Amazon knows not only products shipped to customers but also products customers already possess, when customers choose to enter that information in an effort to correct product recommendations. It knows what people want, thanks to their wish lists.

Google covets such data. If you want to advertise products to someone, it helps to know the products that person already owns and the products that person wants. Google Mine might be more aptly named Google Gold Mine, provided it actually attracts users.

I suspect it won't, if Google ever opts to expose Mine to the world at large. Lending items among friends has worked for generations without any technical infrastructure. Most people don't operate like lending libraries, with hundreds or thousands of items loaned out at any given time. Most people can recall when they've lent something to a friend. Google Mine simply isn't necessary. Google doesn't appear to be adding enough value to interactions related to objects to be invited to observe the things in our homes.

Google should mind its own business, but then the company is doing just that, isn't it? Google sees all data as its business. It's almost like an intelligence agency.

Google's mission is to organize the world's information. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep some information to yourself.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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