Google is determined to buy up as many internet startup companies it can, so that it can flood us with ever more pervasive and highly targeted advertising. News that Google has just acquired the Emu instant massaging tool (price undisclosed) therefore fills us with dread.
What sets Emu apart from the glut of other IM apps out there is the way in which Emu’s technology features a built-in personal assistant (like Siri or Google Now) which can monitor chats, infer meanings from conversations, and offer suggestions to users (a fancy way of saying ‘insert highly targeted ads’).
One ad for Emu shows how when discussing meeting up for lunch, Emu can suggest nearby eateries, and find a lunch-time gap in both user’s schedules. The question then becomes, ‘when does this “suggestion” become a commercially paid for ad?’
It is expected that Emu technology will be integrated into Google Hangouts, where much like FourSquare, which hopes to cash in on users’ day-to-day lives by tracking them everywhere (removing the need to ‘check in’ places), Google will be able to continually track large amounts of intimate details about users’ lives.
At present Google monitors users’ emails and search terms but not chats, so the acquisition of Emu makes perfect sense, and the fact that Hangouts gives Google access not just to IM texts, but SMS messages, calendar events, users’ contact lists, GPS location etc., will allow it to be very useful to its users.
However, the price for this convenience is even further erosion of users’ privacy, as Google consolidates its domination of every communications channel…