Google wants to know where you're driving

Google knows what you're searching, but now it may come to know where you're driving.

Google is reportedly acquiring the navigation company Waze for more than a billion dollars. The acquisition will further swell the pile of personal data Google collects and uses to serve ads. It also keeps the technology and talent of a hot company out of the hands of competitors in the increasingly important field of mapping.

Waze is a bit like a friend who warns you to skip a certain road because traffic’s a nightmare there today. More than just giving directions, Waze uses data from its more than 40 million app users to calculate the fastest routes. That’s a lot of data, and Google is happy to slurp it up so it can serve us more ads, further customized with our location and travel information.

“You could see this go into couponing. You could see it go into a wide variety of places,” says Babson College business professor Marty Anderson. “It’s not just about mapping where people are in cars.”

Buying Waze also keeps the app away from Google’s competitors. Facebook bid aggressively for it. Apple also wants to outmap Google.

“Google didn’t want Apple to have a hold of this,” says tech analyst Brian Proffitt, who teaches at Notre Dame’s business school.

After Apple’s disastrous launch of its own mapping app in September, CEO Tim Cook apologized. He even encouraged people to check out alternatives like Waze. Looks like Google was listening.

Mark Garrison: Waze is kinda like your friend warning you to skip a certain road because traffic’s a nightmare there today. It works like this: drivers share their location and other data. Waze uses it to find the fastest route. That’s a lot of data, and Google is happy to slurp it up so it can serve us more ads. Babson College professor Marty Anderson:

Marty Anderson: You could see this go into couponing. You could see it go into a wide variety of places. It’s not just about mapping where people are in cars.

Buying Waze also keeps it away from competitors. Facebook bid aggressively for it. Apple also wants to outmap Google. Tech analyst Brian Proffitt is with Notre Dame’s business school.

Brian Proffitt: Google just didn’t want Apple to have a hold of this.

After Apple’s disastrous launch of its own mapping app in September, CEO Tim Cook apologized. He even encouraged people to check out alternatives like Waze. Looks like Google was listening. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

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