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Google is Creepy

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 08/01/2019
Creepy Google Maps Email

My wife forwarded me an email from Google. It showed her everywhere she had visited in the last month, which creeped her out. So she removed all the tracking she could from her phone. It didn’t work – she received a similar email the following month.

I received a similar email (see a part of mine above, where they show two restaurants I visited). I agree it’s creepy. Why does Google go out of their way to remind customers they’re tracking their movements? It comes down to a core CX principle of understanding customer needs. Employees focus on what they think is cool, rather than what customers want.

I’m currently listening to the book In the Plex by Steven Levy about how Google grew into the behemoth it is now. One section discusses how Google added a product management capability. In most companies, the role of the product manager is to discover what customers want, and guide the company to create products that meet those needs. According to Levy, Larry Page hates that approach, and told their first product manager to listen to what engineers wanted to develop, and use that to create the roadmap.

Given Google’s growth, it’s hard to argue that this hasn’t worked. But it’s starting to show its limitations, as the new antitrust investigation shows. Google has grown so big that inside-out thinking is less about lost revenues and more about being creepy.

There’s no question that Google’s employees (and yours) have great ideas that should be explored. But when you lose connection to your customer your risk crossing the line.

Luckily, it appears that Google got the message, as we haven’t received similar emails since March. They still presumably track everywhere we go. But at least they don’t go out of their way to creep us out.

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