Google is a massive company that does a lot of things. It gives you email, a cool search engine, a fantastic Maps app and plenty of cloud storage, all for free. We also tend to forget that it's an ad company. Until an ad pops up on someone's Google Home device, anyway.
Over the last couple of days, Google Home users have heard a little spot about the opening of Beauty and the Beast when they ask for a summary of the day ahead.
"By the way, Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast opens today," says, Google Home, in between spots on the weather and whatever other news stories are popular at the moment. Speaking with The Verge, Google issued two statements, one seems to suggest it is an ad despite explicitly saying it's not. They then quickly followed up with a statement that suggests it's not an ad but rather some type of algorithm deciding what content to dish out to you. Here's the first statement:
This isn't an ad; the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales.
And here's the second statement:
This wasn't intended to be an ad. What's circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We're continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.
Regardless of what Google says, we often seem to forget that while Google is many things, it's absolutely an ad company first. According to Adweek, Google made around 88 per cent of its revenue from ads in the second quarter of last year.
Google has since pulled the not-ad from Home, and while they're denying it's an ad, it's hard to see it as anything but a test run of just that. Even if it's not and was an earnest mistake, the idea of putting personalised ads on Google Home seems like a no-brainer.
To expect the company we already let mine our emails to display better ads to do anything but shove ads in our faces on all their products seems delusional. Google Home, just like the Amazon Echo, is billed as an assistant but is clearly also a means to sell you more things. In Google's case, it's also yet another way to round out your profile to advertisers.
While there's no evidence either company is monitoring the microphone the same way they monitor what you do online in order to display personalised ads, I wouldn't be surprised to see that as a feature in the future. Alexa is probably a little easier to understand for most of us, as everyone assumes that a product they buy from Amazon is at least partially there to sell products on Amazon, but we tend to forget that Google is doing the same thing.