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"Google’s Dance" Creates Perceptions That Don’t Match Reality

While Google is overwhelmingly an advertising company, consumers see Google as “an information company, pure and simple,” writes Robert Epstein in “Google’s Dance,” a new opinion piece in TIME. Epstein is a Ph.D. research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.

The gulf between Google users’ perceptions and the reality is “troubling,” Epstein writes, because Google’s methodology for getting consumers to trade search for their valuable consumer data is “inherently deceitful” because the user has “no conscious awareness that he is being observed.” In fact, “he is also most likely unaware that by setting up any sort of Google account – or even just by using Google’s search engine – he is agreeing to” allow Google to keep and analyze anything he does online.

“From a business perspective, this method of collecting valuable information is brilliant. It’s a sleight of hand routine with a new twist: consumers are grateful for the experience they’re having while their pockets are being picked,” Epstein says.

So, ultimately, what is your impression of Google? Information company or “a massive advertising agency that spies on consumers”? After all, as Epstein closes out his article, “It’s all a matter of perception.”