Did Google Expect Apple to Focus This Much On Privacy?

In relation to my previous post where I raised the possibility that groupthink might be happening within Google’s top management, I would like to bring attention to the possibility that Google might have totally failed to predict Apple’s very strong focus on privacy.

In the WWDC keynote, Craig Federighi repeatedly mentioned Apple’s focus on privacy. Proactive Assistant has privacy, Photos has privacy, and the News app has privacy. Furthermore, in addition to focusing on privacy on its own apps, Apple has build in what one could call an adblocker API into Safari so that users can install adblocker extensions that would also protect them from the user tracking activities that ad networks often conduct behind the scenes. Apple has also added many capabilities to the Spotlight feature so that you don’t have to visit Google and help them create a ad targeting profile of you nearly as often.

Although it is still unclear whether for example Proactive Assistant will work as well as Google Now, or whether normal users will install and adblocker extension, it is evident that the features that Apple introduced are potentially very damaging to Google if users embrace them. It would result in significantly reduced traffic to Google search, which is Google’s sole monetisation engine.

My question is, are there any clues that Google predicted these features from Apple? Do they have a plan already in place to counter any negative publicity on privacy (other than the heavy lobbing that they are doing in Washington), especially outside of the US? What was their contingency plan in the event that Apple would embrace adblockers? What Apple introduced was not completely unexpected given their previous comments on privacy and Tim Cook’s emphasis on human rights, and if Google’s management had been paying attention, they could easily have predicted them. If we actually end up seeing clues that Google completely missed these cues, then it reinforces my argument that Google management might be in groupthink.

I will be keeping an close eye on how Google executives react.

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