It is more than a little interesting to the average enterprise that on the same day that the FTC cleared Google of anti-trust violations, a report came out that Google+ had passed 100 million unique users per month for the first time.
One-hundred million unique visitors per month puts it in exclusive company with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and gives credence to the idea that Google+ is now a viable entity. Ordinarily, this would seem like a coincidence unless you happen to be a Google customer. Then you might notice how Google's strategy makes the ruling both curious and potentially dangerous to the enterprise.
Google customers are probably well aware that if you have an Android phone, a Gmail account, a You Tube account, or even if you use Zagat's restaurant guide, whether you like it or not, you have a Google+ account. You also have all of those other accounts whether you signed up for them or not. You may not use Google+, and you may not have any friends in your "circles," but you have a profile populated by the information in other Google services, possibly even complete with a profile picture.
Furthermore, if you're logged into one of those accounts, you may see your activity or those of your friends on Google+ on other Google products tracked on Google+. For instance, you might see the profile picture of yourself or a friend as having viewed a video on YouTube. Others may see a restaurant review attributed to you even if you hadn't intended it to be public.
The goal is to essentially extend one login across all of your Google products. When Google was just search and maps, that was no big deal. Now, they have a finger in nearly every pie.
That makes the FTC ruling all the more curious. The FTC's ruling was specific to whether Google's search results were biased towards its own products. The FTC found they were not in violation (though Google did agree to tweak their results). The thing is that Google made the argument that its search engines were showing Google products in search because they were most relevant based on their algorithm which tracks activity, links, etc.
Hmmm... Well, it isn't a surprise then that all of Google's products are "relevant" under the algorithm since they're getting the advantage of cross-linking from popular sites like YouTube. Being a member of YouTube makes you a member of multiple services you never signed up for so those services get a boost from your membership even if you've never heard of them.
Is this dangerous or just smart business? Probably a little bit of both. Google certainly has the right to say that being a member of Google makes you a member of their various services. As a Google exec told the Wall Street Journal: "Google+ is Google." And the opposite can surely be said as well -- Google is Google+. Asking Gmail users and YouTube users to be Google+ users is really no different than Facebook using the same login for its chat services, game apps, or shopping apps. Facebook is Facebook. Google is Google.
But the problem from the point of view of the enterprise is that the walls of Facebook are rather clear. If an enterprise user uses his Facebook account to post a status or use an app, he knows he's in the confines of Facebook. When a YouTube user watches a video, he may or may not see the Google logo in the corner. Where Google ends and begins is less clear to the user. How many users know that Google and Zagat are linked?
So what happens if one of your employees uses Gmail or Google Docs at work, then in his spare time downloads hundreds of not so savory videos on YouTube? The Google+ friends that he has in his work circle may (depending on security settings) see the activity in a way they wouldn't if he were logged into YouTube alone.
As problems in the enterprise go, this falls well behind your BYOD and security policies. But it ranks among those things that are going to need to fall into your training and social networking policies. How to navigate the vast jungle that is Google and Google+ is more of a threat than just making sure your people don't tweet the wrong thing.
The FTC clearly didn't rule on Google's strategy, and possibly it shouldn't have. But if Google ever posed an anti-trust danger, it wasn't in search results so much as in using its position as the king of search to bring so many users under its account umbrella in ways they may not have fully understood.