Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monetizing Google's Data

I don't work at Google, but if I did, I'm sure there are lots of great applications I could build if I had access to their data.  One area where the possible uses of Google's data has been relatively underappreciated is the realm of finance.  Today we learned that Google has started calculating its own inflation index by tracking the prices of products advertised online.  Although they haven't decided whether or not to publish this index yet, there are other potentially interesting sources of economic information available to Google that it could use for its own advantage or sell for the right price.  For instance, rather than simply tracking the prices of products online, couldn't Google easily measure consumer interest in different products, based on searches for product keywords or clicks on shopping-related links?  And wouldn't that information be interesting to a stock analyst following the manufacturer's stock?  Presumably this data could be updated in real-time, providing a nice jump on the release of sales data for new products - or even providing a way to measure interest in forthcoming releases.  So maybe Google should start its own hedge fund to trade based on these signals.  I suppose that the thought of Google running a hedge fund might conflict with their motto of "Don't Be Evil", or at least it wouldn't help their image.  There would be something unseemly about Google profiting so openly from the data it collects.  But I don't see how it could be unlawful, since there's no insider trading involved.

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