Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Why doesn't Google just 'fess up about INGRESS?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Click or tap the above image to download a .pdf of this article.My new favorite podcast is In Beta with Gina Trapani and Kevin Purdy. Refreshingly they talk about technology from the perspective of developers and technologists while avoiding the same old market speculation regarding Google/Apple/Microsoft that is the grist of so many tech journalists’ mills.

A case in point was the November 28 episode titled Glitter at the Bottom of the Page. They talked about recent findings that so many people under-use special functions known to the tech-savvy but little understood by the masses.

Especially entertaining was Gina’s discussion of her attempt to use her Android phone to take a quick picture of her daughter. Developer Gina was flummoxed by the sudden array of controls presented by her phone after having used the dead-simple iPhone camera for so many months. This led to a valuable discussion of how we might all benefit from app developers taking a fresh look at unsexy features such as copy-and-paste.

Also intriguing was the discussion by Gina and Kevin of the new Google game INGRESS being made available by invitation only to Android smartphone users. Ingress appears to be an attempt by Google to “gamify” the gathering of additional behavioral and photo information that can be linked to Google geo-data.

I say “appears” since Google hasn’t really divulged in any detail what its real intentions are regarding Ingress. Is Ingress just a game? Or is Ingress a diabolical attempt to capture and explot behavioral data where Google sells valuable behavioral data to the highest bidder?

That Google appears to be using a “game” as a cover for the unexplained crowdsourcing of data collection does not surprise me. Google is very open about some things but not about others. One area they have been traditionally secretive about is how they use the data they collect about us. Yes, they appear to give us the ability to “turn off” such data collection but, at the end of the day, we really don’t know what they know about us and how they use our data as the  basis for their commercial and advertising activities. 

While I use and benefit greatly from Google services, I do wish Google were a bit more forthcoming about what they know about me and how they use my behavioral data. I really don’t know, for example, how to compare the value I get from Google to the value they get from knowing  so much about me.

In some ways, you might say that Google is just as secretive as Apple when it comes to customer data. That’s not necessarily bad, but it is certainly not an example of being “open” or “transparent.”

Copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in collaborative project management and new technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. Contact Dennis via email at or by phone at 703-402-7382. 

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