Why are we struggling so hard to figure out how to use Trends or tweets or shares to predict elections when Google actually knows exactly how we are going to vote. Impossible, you say? Think again.
Raise your hand—or tap the spacebar key, or whatever—if you have ever told a friend or relative who your favorite candidate is in, say, a Gmail message (Gmail is a Google product). If you don’t use Gmail, what about in a message to someone whouses Gmail? If you are a Chrome or Android user (both Google products), maybe you said, “Feel the Bern” or “Trump rules!” in a direct message on Instagram, a tweet on Twitter, or a Facebook message, all of which Google can easily “scrape.” Maybe you wrote a cool essay about Hillary using Google Docs or used an Android app to donate to her campaign. Maybe you signed up to attend a Cruz rally using Chrome. Maybe you put “Cruz rally” on a calendar you downloaded from Google Play. Maybe you used Waze (another Google product) to direct you to the rally, looked up directions using Google Maps, or just brought your Android device with you to the rally. Maybe you told someone about how awesome the rally was in a phone conversation that was being routed by Google Voice.
I could go on.
Most major companies track us these days, but Google is the King of Tracking, monitoring what we do on (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/05/10/15-ways-google-monitors-you) more than 60 platforms, 24 hours a day, and consolidating that information into highly structured personal profiles they use to send us targeted ads. All outgoing and incoming Gmail messages are stored, even the drafts you never intended to send, along with transcripts of all Voice conversations, the content of all Docs, all search terms used, websites visited, routes taken, places visited, purchases made, and on and on.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is incredibly easy and 10 is incredibly hard, how easy do you think it would be for Google to tabulate (a) who is planning to vote on election day and (b) whom they are planning to vote for? If you said “1,” raise your hand again, because that is how easy it would be.
Do Google employees—either seriously or (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/googles-snoops-mining-our-data-for-profit-and-pleasure) just for fun—ever compute those numbers? Not the silly Trend numbers they release to the public, but the hard, cold, actual voting numbers? Given the company’s (http://qz.com/520652/groundwork-eric-schmidt-startup-working-for-hillary-clinton-campaign/) strong interest in politics, it is hard to imagine that they aren’t updating those numbers daily, if not hourly.
This leaves us with two questions, one small and practical and the other big and weird.
The small, practical question is: How is Google using those numbers? Might they be sharing them with their preferred presidential candidate, for example? That is not unlawful, after all, and Google executives have taken a hands-on role in past presidential campaigns. The Wall Street Journal reported, for example, that Eric Schmidt, head of Google at that time, was personally overseeing Barack Obama’s programming team at his campaign headquarters the night before the 2012 election.
And the big, weird question is: Why are we even bothering to vote?
Voting is such a hassle—the parking, the lines, the ID checks. Maybe we should all stay home and just let Google announce the winners.