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Trust is the most abused word in the human language because it has no defined meaning – it is more of a belief. So, to answer the question about whether we trust Google, you need to define what trust means – in this case.

If you have a few spare minutes read our treatise on trust in a digital world as it relates to the context that we may trust Google or anyone/thing else.

Hi, I am Sam Bocetta, GadgetGuy’s US correspondent and a very senior journalist. GadgetGuy asked me to analyse the stunning US news (it is a PDF so check your downloads folder) that Americans trust Google over their own government. Well, some Americans trust almost anyone over their Government!

Do we really trust Google?

Distrust is rippling through the country. It is particularly potent when concerning major brands and concentrations of power.

Today, <25% of Americans trust their neighbours; 10% say the same about the news media or U.S. government; and only 4% trust Wall Street or Hollywood. Of the top 100 brands, the trust average is barely 59%!

But before we over generalise it is important to see who trusts what. For example, Google is the top-performing with Gen Z and Millennials; USPS (US Post) is number one with Gen X and Boomers.

Trust Google

And trust, as the Edelman Trust Barometer says now has two distinct attributes: competence (69% say it is very important brands deliver consistently on promises) and ethical behaviour (young Americans are generally more sceptical of brands and put greater emphasis on ethical matters).

So, my considered opinion is that Google has met those criteria. But perhaps, more importantly, it has earned more trust where others have lost far more trust.

Morning Consult has identified three areas of distrust that are important to consumers.

Trust Google
Trust Google
Trust Google

What do we expect from Google to trust Google?

It appears that most see Google as a search engine – not the author of Android (on 90% of the world’s phones) or the creator of OK Google.

Trust in a search engine is to deliver very lightly curated, transparent results – relevant results you can rely on. Google does that so much better than Bing or privacy advocate Duck Duck Go.

And people trust Google because apart from a few items like Pixel and Nest, it does not sell hardware nor downplay competitors results.

What data does Google collect from search, Android and Google Assistant?

  • Name, gender and probably birthdate
  • Mobile numbers and phone details like IMEI, brand, model
  • Recent Google searches and IP address, machine type, browser
  • Websites visited, time on each page, whether you went to other pages etc
  • What you like: sport, games, music, food, drink and more.
  • Where you work (if you access the web via a personal sign-in at work, or go to the same place regularly, use Google Maps navigation or you tell it)
  • Where you live (reverse IP lookup of if you tell it)
  • YouTube videos searched and watched
  • Voice interaction with Google Assistant
  • People, animals and places in photos if you use its photo cloud
  • Ad personalisation allows nomination of topics you do/don’t like
  • Optionally via things like voice match, it can access your calendar and emails to tell you your daily schedule.
  • It can access contacts for voice dial and DUO
  • Google incorporates other information feeds (e.g. from any Google Assistant device) and experiments with sentiment analysis etc.

But you have almost complete control over this at your account – go there and be amazed at what it knows – turn everything off if you want – I do.

What does Google do with this information?

Maps – to assist you in locating things of interest to you nearby (advertising) and live traffic