Facebook is in hot water and not so much because it collects data, but more so because of how the data it collected was used. Bad Facebook! Down, boy! Sit! meanwhile, the data collection goes on– to the benefit of Facebook. Not you or me.
Data collection is nothing new and it’s a time honored tradition among humanoids which probably dates back to cave drawings about human life. All of the major technology companies we know, love, and loathe collect data. Some put it to good use. Here’s an example.
Yes, That Google
Full disclosure. I do not like Google’s business practices and a little government intervention here and there is a good thing for a company that tracks online users to the point of stalking. I use Apple Maps. I use Google Maps. Why both? Their data, therefore, their results, are different. Google collects far more data from more sources than Apple. How much of that is put to good use for iPhone customers? I mean, beyond Maps, Gmail, et al?
Google Maps for iOS now shows restaurant waiting times. No, not for the Chick-fil-A in Weinstein Food Court near Lower Manhattan and the East Village. But for certain restaurants where Google can collect data. iPhone customers using Google Maps already get real-time transit information. Now there are a million sit-down restaurants worldwide that have lines and since Google knows where you are at any moment in the space time continuum, it can extrapolate wait times in various restaurants.
Accurate numbers probably are not easy to come by, but there may be 20-million full service restaurants on planet earth, so pulling in data from many tens of millions of Android and iOS users around the world, overlaying that with restaurant locations, and some kind of number pops up. The iOS app is much like the Android app and displays hour-by-hour waiting times through the day, including information about a restaurant’s peak hours.
See how valuable that data can be? Apple needs more truly useful data that goes beyond the directions in Map or Siri’s view of the weather and last night’s sports scores.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other technology companies gather as much data as they can, sift and sort through what makes sense, and when they find patterns, attempt to figure out how to use the data to their own benefit. In this case, Google uses such data to determine wait times at restaurants.
Apple does not collect as much data as Google or Facebook despite having about a billion customers. The iPhone maker may know about our application usage. Apple tracks plenty of health data in iOS and Watch. For better or worse, what we do not see is the same kind of data being put to use by Apple as it is by the likes of Google and Facebook.
Apple needs more data. As long as the company can demonstrate that such data collection and usage is beneficial to the customer base, I’m all for it. Google and Facebook have shown they cannot be trusted with such information, and the crumbs of restaurant wait times pale in significance to political exploitation of data that can sway an election with a few tens of thousands of votes by using fear mongering vs. fact gathering.