First, it was your search engine. Later it served as your navigator. Now, it wants to be your healthcare provider, your autonomous driver, and most recently, your banker (with a major asterix).
That’s right, we’re talking about Google.
Another step toward omnipresence?
The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Google is planning to launch checking accounts for users as part of its Google Pay service next year. This is under project name “Cache,” TWSJ notes. However, the accounts wouldn’t carry the Google name, but will be branded with the names of the banks handling them. These include financial institutions like Citigroup which are partnered with Google. The tech giant also won’t have a banking license, meaning it won’t be able to store users’ deposits (or loan them out for that matter), news site Sifted explains.
So while Google won’t exactly fill in the entire role of a banker, leaving the financial nitty-gritty to their partner banks instead, it does want users to consider its service even more holistic than before, with Google Pay services now greater in scope. More importantly, Google wants its hand inside the banking cookie jar, and every other cookie jar.
The reason is simple: data. Google’s lifeblood since day one has always been data. This is also why the company is acquiring wearable firm FitBit. Google wants a wealth of information on all the aspects of a user’s life, with its services at the heart of everything said user does, even if it says it won’t sell consumer data.
Right now, Google knows your commute route and duration, address, favorite restaurant, purchasing habits, and your entire search history (with all kinds of connotations that come with that, such as your political bias, gender bias or orientation, and much more). Next, it wants your health and banking data. Even if it says it won’t sell it (like posturing Facebook always claims, but often does so just the same), it could feed the information to its AI algorithms, building a more omnipresent artificial encyclopedia. A few years ago, the company even revealed that its Google Translate AI had created its own language to facilitate more accurate translations for users, through the power of machine learning. The sky is the limit for scientific development, sure, but that doesn’t apply to the ethics that govern our world (and tend to complicate things for an overly-ambitious company like Google.)
This is the same reason many FitBit users have opted to discontinue using FitBit products before Google completes its acquisition. The last thing many users want is for an already gluttonous user database to grow bigger with their sensitive medical information.
Anti-trust sentiment permeating
With other rivals like Apple and Facebook also branching out into the banking sector too, it was only natural for Google to follow suit soon after. The question, however, is if they’ll find success, given heavy anti-trust rhetoric among the mass public and regulators when it comes to Big Tech. Google found itself in court last year. By now, Facebook has a membership pass to Congress. Amazon is no stranger to regulators’ queries either.
With unbridled ambition comes a great disregard for regulation. Uber has been a living example of this, known for unofficially following the mantra of “asking for forgiveness rather than permission.” Other Big Tech firms have not been too distant from this in philosophy. Now, one will have to wonder whether something like Google’s latest project will find success, especially after a few attempts in the financial sector.