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You are not Google's customer. You are their product. Google make their money by selling your data and your attention to advertisers. Charging you money and treating you like a customer creates a conflict of interest that they really don't want to deal with. Google's strategy of "scalable customer service" is no accident.

This is a commonly heard statement, but it doesn't actually make sense. Like any company which sells advertising, there are two levels of product: the products they charge money for (e.g. ads and customer info), and the products which attract people who enable the former - gmail, search, etc.

If they do a bad job at creating and servicing products which draw people to the site, people will not go there and Google will not make money. So, is gmail 'not a product'? No, that's absurd.

Not true if you think about — look at any other traditional company that lives off of advertising like a TV network or even a newspaper: At the end of the day they don't really have the same sort of customer service that you might see at a restaurant where you can send it back. And in some of the worst cases there's even a distain for the viewers. The opposite of this might be an Apple where you pay for a product and get A+ customer service.

Lack of customer service is not related to whether something is a 'product', or 'you are the product'. It's simply a lack of customer service.

Downvotes aside, I'd just like to point out that lack of customer service is not related to whether something is a 'product', or 'you are the product'. It's simply a lack of customer service.

You can of course say the same thing about any company that sells advertising and it will have an element of truth to it.

I've worked on Google Search for several years, and I can assure you that neither I nor most colleagues I know see things this way. I can't think of a single example where our search results have changed or not changed based on how it would affect Adwords customers. I personally believe that most of our products designed for end users work this way. Even many people I've talked to working on advertising see a large part of their job as improving the advertising experience rather than just revenue.

Within search at least, the issue of customer service is scale. It's a challenging problem with millions of users. We do a good bit already, through feedback forms, staffed U2U groups, video questions and answers, and other venues. We recognize that not everyone can share information on a forum either, and so some of these feedback forms are private.

Gmail does the same, although I'm less familiar with their support offerings. A good starting point might be http://mail.google.com/support/. I'd imagine Google+ will grow in terms of it's forms of feedback and support, and the team seems to be quite responsive on a number of issues already. http://www.google.com/support/+/ might also be a good starting point there.

I'm not familiar enough to comment on the original issue, but I would guess that this has more to do with law in the US, specifically COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. IANAL.

And THERE is your answer. They cannot sell info for a <13yo. So therefore they demand you be 13. To them its a liability. My 4.y.o. uses the web constantly and is becoming quite proficient at it. I would be pissed if they disabled her account too.

I have been Google's customer. I have managed over twenty accounts with them. The largest has spent about 4m to date (the rest amount to much less). The situation is no different there.

Customer service per dollar spent is lower than anywhere else on earth.

The idea that Google (or any major tech company!) has ever even considered selling user data is highly damaging to our industry. I don't expect that kind of baseless paranoia on Hacker News.

Google's whole business model revolves around selling user data. They don't do it directly, handing over browser histories to the marcom group at Pepsico; they do it indirectly, and in a manner that largely preserves privacy. But that doesn't impact the original commenter's point at all. He's right: at Google, you're the product, not the customer.

Agreed, but there's a world of difference between ad targeting and selling data, and public perception to the contrary hurts the web industry.

Can't tell if you are sarcastic or not? No really..

(in case you are not)

Yes Google sells user to their paying customers -- advertisers. How do you think they make all those billions of dollars / year? Why are they providing you with free Gmail, Maps, and high quality search results? The answer is that they sell you to their customers. If you are in gmail and sent your mom an email telling her what kind of printer cartridges to buy, don't be surprised if you see an ad about printer cartridges. They indirectly sold your data "interested in printer cartridges" to their "real" customer -- the company that makes printer cartridges and is looking for someone to buy them.

Are you sure ? Does the data has to be sold ? Can't just an algorithm run through your data and get the most relevant ad ?

They indirectly sold information about you. It doesn't mean that their paying customer will know your gmail address, but their are selling you as a collection of all your preferences to their customers. If their customer cannot be convinced that Google can find out users' preferences very well and target the ads properly, they might choose some other company.

Can you prove that ? I doubt that they sell data, they probably sell the keywords.

I got downvoted into oblivion for saying the same thing on this thread. HN has changed.

Maybe it's been repeated too often.

I feel that's probably the issue too. It's been said on a bunch of submissions about Google. I've seen it 4-5 times already.

It was a clever comment but it's an oversimplification.

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