Who do you trust with your data?

There was an interesting video uploaded by Louis Rossman regarding who consumers trust with their data (link):

It appears that Louis was confused (along with I) regarding how the average person has more trust in Google than they do with Apple regarding keeping their personal data safe. I wonder when the question was asked to people that what people were thinking wasn’t the matter of privacy (stuff that Google collections on them) but rather how secure the service is from hacking etc. I say that because there are still people today who believed that the ‘celebrity leak’ from iCloud had something to do with an iCloud weakness when the reality is that it was people who had weak passwords and failing to implement 2FA. As a result of this misunderstanding of what took place there are people who believe that Google is more secure when in reality something is only as secure as you make it (2FA on iCloud was ‘opt in’ up until recently) – if you have a weak password and don’t turn on 2FA then all the magic in the world isn’t going to make your account secure. I think the second reasoning might be that because Google makes it’s money through collecting information and creating a profile to improve they service while delivering relevant ads that some might conclude Google has greater incentive to being more security focused because it is that information which gives them a competitive edge over the competition and thus they want to guard that edge they have by keeping it secure.

When thinking about the question there is also the matter of what people mean by trust – is it ‘trust’ in terms of keeping data secure? is it trust in terms of not sharing it with third parties? is it trust in terms of using the information they have which will benefit to the end user with a more customised/bespoke experience rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach which fails to meet an end users needs? as Ross notes, it lacks the sort of extended answers which would give a good insight into how the end user interprets the question which leads into why they answered the question in that way.

Where I disagree with Ross is regarding his conclusions regarding Google’s business model – if push comes to shove and they had to ramp up their cloud services, hardware etc. they could easily do it, it wouldn’t be easy but they do have something beyond just ‘hoovering up data’. Compare that to say Facebook – what do they really have in the way of monetisable services that people are willing and able to pay for? If Facebook offered an ad free version for US$9.99 per month would there be sufficient enough numbers to make it worth their while or is Facebook’s only utility is the fact that it is free meaning if it wasn’t free then going without it wouldn’t be a major inconvenience (keeping in mind that one used to pay for WhatsApp which didn’t slow down it’s adoption). According to Google (link) they have 6 million monthly paying companies which is hardly something to be sneezed at. If push came to shove Google could offer a Google One Pro which would be a consumer version of Workspace with additional space, maybe bundle ad free music and YouTube along with making all their other ‘properties’ ad free.

Would it work? In the US they make $256 per year ARPU, on a global scale they make $137 per year ARPU (link – based on 2019 data), so lets assume that their goal is to hit at least the minimum of $22 per month ($256 divided by 12) then they could easily charge US$29.99 (which would work out to be around NZ$49.99 incl GST). Google could move all their devices to start using Samsung based chips for all their devices which would leverage economies of scale, start focusing on a global vision beyond the niche they’ve built out so far etc. and put themselves in a position where although ad revenue would be a large component, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if a regulatory agency started to regulate the ad market or tech giants over all because Google has a viable business path (be it small relative to their ad business).

Maybe this is why users trust Google, because they find utility in using Google services because they choose to use Google when alternatives exist where as with Facebook many people I talk to have noted that they reluctantly use it even though it is a toxic data mining ad riddled cess pit which amplifies the worst that humanity has to offer all for the sake of ‘the click’ or as the marketing folks call it – ‘engagement’. I think that Facebook is, when looking from a long term perspective, in a lot more grave situation than they lead on. Sure, there is the ‘novelty’ of ‘the metaverse’ but given the reputation that Facebook has it is doubtful that there will be a willingness by people to invest further into Facebook. There are also threats coming from outside in the form of competition – the past they could deal with threats by buying them out but given the extra attention they’re given by anti-trust regulators it is doubtful that they can buy out the new platforms which Gen Y and Gen Z are using with TikTok being the most visible alternative. Twitter is positioning themselves as an an alternative, there is wt.social, Bebo has been rebooted and I suspect that if Twitter Blue turns out to be a good little money spinner combined with some crack down on Facebook then I could see emerge more Facebook alternatives – maybe a more decentralised model akin to Mastodon where each instance can specialise based around a region or possibly an interest/hobby/etc by its membership.

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