You are not the customer. You are the product.

July 26, 2013 by

The first thing that I thought when I read about Google Now and its power to manage my life was “Wow, this is scary”. The feature operates like an appointment book, scheduler, reminder and navigator. Imagine that. But…scary? Why?

Google Now is a search app that’s currently available for download on Google Play. As of April 29, Google Now is available on the Apple App Store. This app allows a user to receive proactive individualized information. For example, a user can receive a reminder about the current weather, alternate options for the morning commute, restaurant options in a new neighborhood or a reminder of an upcoming meeting.

This is extremely valuable -- like a real-time assistant and co-pilot. As more data points are gathered, Google Now can offer information and recommendations based on past searches. Google Now can predict a user’s needs and make recommendations to solve problems the user may or may not yet be aware. Like….alternate options for the morning commute in the event of a car accident.

So where does the scary part come in?

Well….with this treasure trove of data, my routine is not a random walk rather it is a series of habits and behaviors. I’m a pattern, not the mish-mosh of complexity I think I am.

There is an expectation that marketers can take advantage of data. The patterns, habits and behaviors could be matched to product or service opportunities allowing companies to provide timely reminders and recommendations.

Consider this – after a few weeks, Google Now could recognize that part of my Saturday morning routine is heading to the gym. Some future Saturday morning, I could begin receiving recommendations or reminders from Target. Not any Target…the location that is on my way home.

In the future, Target could send me customized information based on my pattern/behavior and my past usage. They already have the capability to remind customers when their next prescription is ready. Utilizing Google Now data, Target could identify my traffic pattern in relation to their stores. It’s not farfetched for Target to send me a reminder to pick-up the prescription I haven’t yet gotten…while I’m driving home from the gym.


Eric Ries got it right when he stated "If you get a product for free, you are not the customer. You are the product”.

Google Now simplifies our lives by offering valuable information and recommendations based on our individual patterns. At the same time, Google captures predictive data which could enable companies to market to us individually with greater accuracy.