A Controversial Business Idea for Google, Inc.

As many of our readers know, I have been thinking quite a bit about the issue of security. As we move into the next era of mobile and all things digital — where our identity is tied to digital devices — I believe some form of security consciousness will arise with consumers. Which always lead us to the question of a company like Google. Every time I raise this issue the point is made that it is counter to Google’s primary business model, which is data. It behooves Google to gather as much data/knowledge about you as possible to feed their massive machine learning engine. All of Google’s advertising revenue models are built off this machine learning to help advertisers target customers appropriately. But what if in the era of digital identity Google adjusts their model?

While it is way out there, I propose Google could offer a security service and actually charge consumers to entrust them with their digital identity. This sounds crazy. But think about it — if Google became your locker for the key elements of your digital identity and offered it as a service, it could become an interesting model for them. Security as a service offered by Google. Of course, this would require some significant infrastructure changes but it may not be as far out of an idea as you think. Take Nest for example.

It is possible Google is employing the standard anti-disrtuption strategy with Nest and acquisitions like it. The strategy where you bring in a separate brand/entity to deal with the potential disruption in a new way. What if Nest, or other acquistions around wearables or smart devices, become the trusted Digital identity gateways? These brands could serve as the revenue model within Google’s ecosystem for digital identity management and security.

In this model, Google could conceivably operate their ad business but only have access to certain data I am OK with being public because I get value from being advertised to when it meets my interests or needs. But the private areas of my identity I want to keep secure and managed are kept by a separate entity, for a fee, but still by someone in the Google family. Interesting to think about.

Of course, Google could conceivably just do this themselvs and simply offer a secrity/privacy service for a fee if they deemed it was an important enough issue. Either way, while this is an entirely controversial idea, I think it is an interesting angle to think about relative to the issue of security, privacy, digital identity, and other things that could cause issue for Google in the future.

I know this sounds crazy but I wanted to throw it out there for our members to kick around and share feedback or other thoughts on.

Published by

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

2 thoughts on “A Controversial Business Idea for Google, Inc.”

  1. Over the past weekend, in response to my articles, the question of why Android was not more prevalent in business arose. According to some commentators, Android should be dominating business. Of course, the reason it is not is because of concerns over security and privacy. Android is the low-cost entrant, but they’re not yet “good enough” because they haven’t met businesses’ minimum threshold.

    The question then becomes, why doesn’t Google up its game? It they did, they could then crush Apple Enterprise, Education, etc. This is the question that Ben seems to be addressing in this article.

    However, I think that Ben has already answered his own question. Google’s business model is based on the gathering of data, not the protecting of data. Asking Google to do anything else would be asking them to go against their nature.

    There’s a very well known fable about the scorpion and a frog.

    “A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature.” ~ Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scorpion_and_the_Frog

    The fable is used to illustrate the fact that we often act according to our nature even when that act is to our detriment. I think asking Google to increase their attention to security and privacy is like asking a scorpion not to be a scorpion. It’s against their nature.

  2. At a recent Google IO (not 2014), Larry Page wished that he could experiment with technology intrusion free from pesky regulations.

    Your idea is a pipe dream. Companies the size of Google cannot turn on a dime and change their business model. Like Facebook, Google’s survival depends on people giving up privacy in exchange for services.

    A company that tries to have it both ways is doomed. Either you offer everything for free, collect data, and sell targeted advertising, or you charge directly for your software and services (Apple charges for it via its hardware).

    For this reason, Google should abandon Google Apps (it hinted at dropping IMAP support this week), and Apple should abandon iAds.

    If you try to offer both as Ben suggests here’s what happens — your most valuable customers pay to opt out, thus decimating your much more lucrative advertising business. Advertisers are willing to pay to reach these people, knowing that they will waste a lot reaching the wrong people. But when all the desirable people opt out, the advertising model collapses.

    Again, one company cannot offer both paths. And yes, I work in the online advertising industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *