If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.
I have to admit, this is a catchy line. It appeals to the inner cynic in us all and makes a certain amount of sense in a core, "what can you do for me," type of thinking.
But it's hog-wash.
I work for Google so I follow the news about the company and I'm really tired of seeing that first line, or some variation of it, spouted by people who really don't care enough to want to think it through. It does not work that way!
Yes, Google is a company. And yes, Google is a reasonably large company (though not that large compared to the likes of IBM, GE, etc.). But though a company is a single entity in the eyes of the law, it is not run like that. Google is full of many thousands of individuals, many of whom are more rabid about user privacy than the privacy watchdogs that complain. I've watched them take Larry and Sergey to task on stage about the smallest things. I've done it twice myself. If the leaders of the company purposely violated our users' trust, there would be open revolt and the founders would be lucky to not find themselves strung up by their toes.
Everything Google does is done for our users. Your happiness is always the first priority, even above Ads. (I've seen this in both policy and various practical implementations.) You are not product; you are our customers! That's simply the way we view it and it permeates the company from bottom to top. Everything is done to make a better service for you.
Even Ads is viewed as a service to our users. Random ads are garbage. Useful ads are a benefit. Yes, it's also a benefit to our publishers and yes, it's also a benefit to our shareholders. Since when did win-win-win arrangements become a bad thing?
I won't claim that Google always gets it exactly right or that we haven't made mistakes. We don't and we have. And we admit it. And it will happen again. Sorry. But everything is done with the right intent even if it doesn't always work out as hoped. Hindsight is perfect.
Google is the most moral company in which I have ever worked. But guarding our users' privacy doesn't just make moral sense, it makes business sense. If we purposefully violated our users' privacy, we wouldn't have a business at all before very long.