Google is planning a change in its Android KitKat operating system that will make the corny selfie you took for your Google+ profile photo very important. The change, which is planned for early 2014, will make that profile photo pop up on people’s Android phones when you call them. The system will be automatically opted-in for Google+ users and even works when the recipient doesn’t have your contact details in their phone book.
The new feature could be fairly useful for Android phone callers, as it will help put a face to an incoming call. But the real reasons Google is doing this are threefold. The first is that Google is using its own data back channels and database of user IDs to make this work, and that is a step toward independence from phone carriers. It’s also gentle promotion of the benefits of using Google+ over other social networks. And lastly, there’s a requirement to log your real-world phone number with Google for the system to function. Which means Google is, in one swoop, going to learn precious contact details for many of its Android users–and that’s data that it can analyze and monetize at its leisure.