’s a fairly obvious question for a company whose oft quoted motto is ‘do no evil’, particularly when the company in question has become so intrinsic to many peoples daily lives.  With stories of accidental Wi-Fi data collection and data centers filled with peoples personal information its easy to become suspicious of one of the world’s fastest growing technology companies.  All this does not automatically become a reason to doubt Google’s sincerity however, no one actually knows what they are collecting or even how long they hold onto for so is entirely possible that nothing particularly personally identifying is held for an extended period.  The flip side is also true of course, they could be holding everything forever.

This vast data store could be being used for the simplest of purposes, providing more targetted advertising, its a clear capitalist goal to aim for and makes Google a lot of money.  What if thats not what they are holding for though?  What could Google do with all this information while still staying true to the ‘do no evil’ catchphrase.  If we look at the world of artificial intelligence we may find a clue, swarm intelligence relies on individual agents interacting with each other and there environment with no centralized control structure, what larger group of individual agents exist than the human population of the internet?  Perhaps Google’s data gathering is all part of some larger plan to create a real and working artificial intelligence by understanding the interactions which take place amongst the ‘swarm’ that is the internet.  Or taking the social interaction principle further perhaps at the heart of the Googleplex sociologists are seeking to understand the deeper causes of human behaviour by analysing the interaction of internet denizens.

To take a more science fiction route another possibility surely exists, Psychohistory in the world of Asimov relies on the analysis of statistical information of large groups.  Again the internet represents the largest grouping of individuals in the history of the world, where better to gather the data necessary to predict the flow of human events?

These possibilities are obviously vague and certainly in one case fairly outlandish but the possibility exists that Goolge are gathering data for some great and noble purpose, rather than just to shove a more targetted advertising campaign down our necks.  Even if they are ridiculous, the potential material for fiction authors created by Google’s mere existence is huge and shouldn’t be ignored.

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