Thursday, January 7, 2010

Companies be aware: Google could know your strategy!

Ok, we now know that Xing can find out about your new starting project, but did you know that Google could know your company strategy and next secret  moves ? They really could find out the company you will acquire and the next brand new technology you will use. And we have indications that Google actually practices similar algorithms.

For the experts: The prognosis mechanisms used in Google Flue prognosis can easily be used to detect search trends within the IP Address ranges of companies. Clearly search trends could point to your next major company activity. This might be a merger or acquisition or just the planned usage of a new technology. Or do you think that employees dealing with strategic moves do not search for their new topic ?

So here are the details about a potential case study: Within your company you have a small number of employees who secretly evaluate potential mergers and acquisition with other companies or plan for the usage of specific new technology. To start their research these employees will certainly use the web and search engines. So how does this look like on the Google end ? Within a certain IP Address Range which can be linked to your company, all search terms will be monitored by Google standard mechanisms. This is something that is definitely done by Google. Now over time specific search terms will follow a certain pattern. And this search terms can be matched to your next strategic move.  Before your company starts it's research very little search on the specific terms will be done. But as soon as your strategy evaluation is being started  the trends for this search term will explode. This is similar to the analysis which Google is already doing for the Flu prognosis.

With some high level industry expertise, Google could easily base an investment strategy on this information. This does not really sound good for keeping your strategy secret from Google and other search giants.
Will Google do this ? We could not find anything in the terms of usage which prevents them from doing it.

We know that companies spend large efforts on keeping M&A activity secret, but have they thought about this obvious security hole ?

We know about a way how you can protect yourself against this. One of our next posts will explain the details.


  1. Interesting thoughts. However I don't think that the described scenario poses a threat to companies. Let me explain why not: when company A decides to acquire company B both usually already have some kind of relationship. Might it be cooperation or competition. In any case employees from company A will already use Google to get information on company B. If now company A decides to acquire company B only selected people would know about this plan and these people usually already have the information you can find on Google (which I assume are not even close to the data you can get from due diligence...). So, the message is that there are just no patters that might indicate a planned M&A. The information Google can extract from emails, waves, blogs, etc seem to be a much more reliable source....

    Happy New Year!

  2. Frank, a very valid remark. I guess it all depends on the significance of the statistics. The only real way would be to monitor the search traffic and do some measurememnts. I even tried to get the permission for this in my company. Sadly i was not sucessful. What do you think would the significance of changed search behauvior more relevant in other use cases (e.g. planned usage of new technology etc) ?