In a recent public letter about privacy, Tim Cook incorrectly characterized Google’s intentions when collecting user information:
Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.
Cook is being disingenuous, because he knows that the same information Google uses to target advertising is also used to make its products, like Google Maps, so great. I find it very odd that Cook implies the only use for such data is to “monetize” through advertising. iPhone and iCloud could be made much better if the computer systems could analyze the data people are storing in them. This is obvious.
I don't think the point here is that the "only use" for this data is to monetize through advertising. There are lots of things that Google can do with the data, which can make its consumer products (like Maps, Google Now, Search, Gmail etc. etc.) better.
But is Google doing it because it wants to better consumer products — products which are free to the consumer, and therefore cost Google money? Or is it doing it because it makes its advertising products better — the products that it does sell, and which fundamentally drives its business forwards?
I think Google's software and services are designed to make its advertising better — whether that is directly (eg. using your Maps usage to figure out where you are and what adverts would be geographically relevant) or indirectly (eg. improving the data in Google Maps so that you use it more often/instead of a competing service and allowing Google to collect that information from you directly).
[EDIT - 9/1/2015, fixed link to point to the correct page.]