Google Wallet’s Terms

Google Wallet launched yesterday, and since I have a Nexus S on Sprint, I should be seeing a Wallet application sometime soon, delivered via OTA.

Wallet looks slick and useful, and it appeals to the nerd in me by proving out NFC as a useful technology.

Google just added Visa to the list of partners, signaling that despite their somewhat competitive investment in Square, that Visa recognizes credit card payments are ripe for disruption.

Makes sense, and Wallet is exactly the type of thing I normally would be chomping at the bit to test drive.

I’m just not sure because the terms make me nervous. Here’s something to ponder:

The Google Wallet, a lifetime log of your purchases |

If I use Wallet, Google will have a list of my purchases, which it could add to lists of my keyword searches, my email, my phone calls and texts, my pictures, my documents, a history of my physical location, you get the picture.

Independently, these could be used for evil, but together, they create a very clear picture of who I am, what I do and why.

And Google has the computing power and algorithmic chops to crunch these data and produce meaningful connections.

Pretty scary stuff, even though I have nothing hide.

I’m one of those privacy is dead types, and it truly is, don’t kid yourself. Even so, it’s uncomfortable living under the watchful eye of an algorithm.


Find the comments.




  1. When I read your post, the first thought that came to my mind was, “What’s the difference between what Google has and what Visa or Mastercard have?”

    Here’s how Jacques addressed the issue in his original post:

    “Of course you could argue that any credit card company has access to your buying patterns as well, but they can’t correlate those with your search history. It is the combination of several datasets by one party that makes this undesirable.”

    In my mind, even this doesn’t amount to a big difference vs. what Visa, or my bank, already has on me. Visa knows that I visited Eddie’s Bar at 12:22 pm; what insight does Google get from the fact that I searched for the terms “how to get drunk” at 11:13 am?

    And remember that a credit card company or a bank already has more information about you than just your purchases. I can’t remember how much information is in my profile, but it presumably includes my address and my income, may include my U.S. social security number (and no, it’s not 457-55-5462), and probably includes my mother’s maiden name (along with my favorite pet, etc.). I suspect that the card companies and banks could do a lot of correlation on their own without Google’s help.

  2. The ability to correlate the data sets is a big deal. Look at stuff like Flu Trends and Zeitgeist, and those are just keyword searches over time and geography.

    Google can apply its data to your purchases; sure, most of it seems harmless, but think pre-crime, Minority Report. Correlating your emails to a friend about a quarrel w your neighbors, combined w keyword searches for fertilizer, phone locations pinging on the way to a purchase made at a feed store.

    Could be to get ingredients for a homemade bomb, could be a harmless chicken feed run.

    You mention credit card companies and banks. Sure, they have a lot of data, but they are regulated and monitored to ensure these data are protected, restricted, etc. Google doesn’t fall into that category. Plus, banks and credit card companies don’t have the other data sets at their disposal or the big iron and phalanxes of nerds to write algorithms.

    Plus, look at the data a bank or credit card company has. They are static attributes about you, unlikely to change. Google’s data sets are dynamic and reflect more about who you are now, not who you were born as or who you were when you opened an account.

    These dynamic data combined w purchasing data create a marketing grail bc they can say a lot about who you are today vs. yesterday or last week, i.e. how you’ve changed and what you like.

    Think about it. It’s scary.

  3. Sure, but that’s off topic. The point is that Google won’t have private personal attributes and therefore won’t be subject to those regulations.

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