How Does Google Make Money From You?


There is currently much debate regarding how companies like Apple and Google make their money.

Apple makes their money mostly from hardware, which they charge a premium for. Google gives most of their products away for free while getting their money from customers in other ways.

One way that this has been said is:

If you get something for free then you’re probably the product instead of the customer.

Well, if I’m the product, then what part of me is being sold, and to whom?

The counter to this is to say that everyone knows this, and that it’s a tradeoff: you get pretty good service for free, and in turn you pay in other ways. No problem. I agree with that counter, and I don’t think that any free service is bad just because it’s free.

But I do prefer the transparency of the Apple model. It simply means that I know how I’m giving someone money. It means I know the nature of the relationship. With Apple I simply hand them X amount of money and I get Y amount of hardware or services.

My problem with Google is not that I’m exchanging something in a non-standard way; my problem is that I am not sure how I’m paying for what I get. That’s frightening to me. Are they selling my usage data? My habits? My actual information?

I have no idea.

I know they’re selling something related to me using their services (that’s what makes it a business for them vs. a charity), but because I cannot point directly to what they’re getting out of the exchange I am compelled to imagine the worst.

This is why I prefer the a direct model.

It’s not because I don’t like what I give up with companies like Google and Facebook. It’s because I don’t even know what I’m giving up.


  1. I’m not arguing that everyone should make the same choice as I have. I’m only explaining why I made the choice I did.

  2. I wrote here about why I’m leaving Google services.

  3. I’m also not assuming the worst in all cases with Google. I think they have been very moral in the past, and may be resisting being evil in many ways. But it’s unnerving to know that struggle is taking place with my data in the balance.

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