Google's search box is now becoming a window into your life. On Wednesday, the technology giant said it will provide answers to personalized questions through its search engine, calling on data in a logged-in user's Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+ and Google Drive.
Roy Livne, Google product manager, asked in a posting Wednesday on the Google Official Blog if the reader "ever had trouble checking your flight's status on the go because it meant digging through your e-mail for the flight number?" Or if you ever wanted to quickly check if a package would arrive on time, "without having to look up the tracking info first?"
Now, users can do that by typing into the Google search box such questions as "what's my flight status?" or "when will my package arrive?" This capability, which had been available through the Google Now app on Android devices, will now be rolled out to desktop, tablet and smartphone devices of all platforms through Google Search.
'What Are My Hotel Reservations?'
In addition to getting information on coming flights and live status of current flights, users will be able to ask for "my reservations" or "my hotel" to see dining plans or hotel name and address.
Asking for "my purchases" will return the status of current orders, and even asking something as broad as "what are my plans for tomorrow?" will return such information as restaurant reservations, events, hotel reservations or other relevant data. A request to "show me my photos from Ireland" will display photos tagged with that country that have been uploaded to Google+, and the search service can even locate your "photos of sunsets," since it has some capability to automatically recognize those kinds of images. Users can turn off the service by clicking the globe icon at the top of the search results page.
Similar capability has been offered for over a year through Google Now. The roll-out of this omniscient search engine comes at a particularly delicate time for Google's privacy reputation.
Just this week, for instance, the company became embroiled in a controversy when it became known that a legal document submitted by Google in a court case contended that "people who use Web-based e-mail today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed" by the recipient's electronic communication service provider in the course of delivery.
'The Context of Me'
This statement, and similar ones by the Google legal team, were widely taken to mean that Google did not believe users had a legitimate expectation to privacy in e-mail. Now, the expansion of Google Now to the search service provides a range of conveniences, as well as a slew of privacy issues.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said that this functionality within Google Search means that, in essence, users will be able to ask a wide variety of questions related to "the context of me."
In order to make the kinds of inferences that will be necessary to answer these kinds of contextual questions, Shimmin pointed out that Google will be "heavily dependent on their system recognizing what a 'tracked package' is in your e-mail." This means not only that Google will have access to your data and assets in Gmail, Calendar and other services, but it will also be making analytical judgments about what the data means in your life.
Shimmin said that this can provide many benefits to a busy user, but the bottom line is: "How much do you trust Google?"
Posted: 2013-08-16 @ 10:45am PT
Due to Google's censorship policies, I have stopped using their search engine.