The real scandal in the Google purchase history non-scandal

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To give credit where due, nothing nefarious seems to be going on here. Google’s response is basically that this a user-only view on top of emails and they don’t use it any manner. Thatis the real scandal.

Many outlets recently shared stories around how Gmail has a view of your entire purchase history. I checked mine, and there is well…some pretty interesting stuff there, ranging from awkward to hilarious, over the last 10 years.

To give credit where due, nothing nefarious seems to be going on here. Google’s response is basically that this a user-only view on top of emails and they don’t use it any manner. Thatis the real scandal.

Why isn’t out personal data being used in a manner that is useful to us? Use case: I was looking to get some tailored shirts made this summer, and I totally forgot the name of the small online merchant I had used 7 years ago. If I search on Google, I get plenty of ads (how Google makes money) for this. I could search my Gmail history, but I don’t know the exact keywords to search thousands of emails. It turns out it is right there in my purchase history, and I found it effortlessly. Why doesn’t Google use my data and actually satisfy my goals, rather than show ads? Why do I have to jump through so many hoops in 2019?

Now, I can hear the Product Manager at Google: “Yes! Great idea! It is in the roadmap. Backlogged!”. Well, there are 35M developers in the world, and most of them don’t work for Google, and some of them would love to help me out. But they don’t have a way to securely access user data in Google’s silo, maintaining user privacy, and have any business models besides intrusive ads – as I have written before. If we indeed had a user-centric view of our online personal data, it would be trivial to build this out.

If we indeed had a user-centric view of our online personal data, it would be trivial to build this out.

Imagine a different future built on Blockchain technologies, where users want online services to track them more – because it is done securely, privately, and in a manner that works in the user’s interest – not showing you intrusive ads for beer in the middle of a meditation video. Users will be disturbed that you aren’t tracking their purchase history, in the same manner they’d worry their doctor has not fully read their medical history. They’d worry the devices aren’t listening to them, and automatically playing the song you are lightly humming. Can we have privacy, while delivering real user value, fueled by good business models?

This is the future we are building at Friday Night Labs.

(This story originally appeared on my personal blog: ash.money)

Ash Sharma is the founder of Friday Night Labs, a new venture focused on building a P2P economy based on Blockchain technologies. A veteran of internet products, with a strong interest in Data Sovereignty, he blogs about blockchain on ash.money

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