While I can't imagine for a moment that Google is in danger of going out of business, with the searching masses marching elsewhere in dismay at various perceived privacy infringing issues. However, if you look at the media attention regarding just that, the privacy issue, then Google is going to have to start doing something to head off the bad press before the whole Do No Evil image gets tarnished with a brand stain that will not come off.
According to the latest figures from HighBeamResearch, looking at the last five years of Google media attention, only 4.8% of the Google-related press was to do with privacy in 2008. That number went up to 6.4% in 2010, and the news is in that for 2012 it has jumped again to 7.6% which would suggest either that Google itself isn't fully appreciating the level of public concern over privacy or that the public is simply more aware of privacy issues per se. I am inclined to think that the truth is actually a mixture of these two things.
Take the recent launch of the Google Drive cloud storage service which required users to agree to terms and conditions that, in part, state: the terms and conditions that you have to agree to when signing up to use the Google Drive service and which, in part, state: “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.” Or how about the news that Google is facing a possible police investigation in the UK, Europe and Australia following the publication of documents which appear to show that rather than, as had previously been claimed, the data including usernames and passwords it collected whilst gathering information for the Street View service between 2007 and 2010 being done so by mistake had, actually, been intentional? Oh, and let's not forget the brewing crapstorm surrounding deals being negotiated with the US Federal Trade Commission concerning the bypassing of privacy settings in Apple's Safari web browser client and the amount of the fine it will have to pay as a result.
What do you think? Are privacy concerns tainting the image of Google and what impact upon the search business do you think that will have in the long term? Will Google have to change how it perceives privacy in the socially networked online world it does business in, or will we have to lower our privacy expectations in order to reap the benefits of living in such a place? Take part in the DaniWeb conversation by commenting below...