Google Now : « Big brother is watching you »
Google has recently launched a new challenge to the technology world by including a new feature in their products – this feature is called “Google Now” and, like everything innovative in this area, it raises legal and moral issues. In this case, the approach reminds somehow George Orwell’s “1984”.
Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant, which is currently implemented as an aspect of the Google search application. It recognizes repeated actions that a user performs on the device, such as common locations, calendar appointments or search queries in order to display more relevant information to the user in the form of “cards”. For instance, if you need to navigate to the place of your lunch meeting, you could open the app which will guide you through. Once there, it will remember your destination and will offer to take you back and will even calculate you the time it takes to get there.
A priori, it looks like a very useful and functional synchronization of all your researches designed only to make your life easier. Certainly, reality is a bit different and more complicated. When using this app, users tend to get the feeling of being constantly observed by an invisible force, which calculates their steps and, function of these, offers them meaningful solutions. Thanks to this new “gadget” Google is going to experience all your tastes and locations in order to anticipate them and “facilitate” your life this way. The app collects the information you provided and takes the initiative to second-guess your next move based on where you are, the time of day and even calendar date.
Scott Huffman, Engineering Director for Search Quality at Google, tells us: “Google’s going to know when my flight is, whether my package has gotten here yet and where my wife is and how long it’s going to take her to get home this afternoon. Of course, Google knows that stuff.”
Of course, opting out of the application is an option, but since opting in is the setting by default; most of the users just get used to it and never exercise their choice consciously. Google adds that if you’re willing to get in and let them know so much about you, then Google is willing return you the favor by using this information to your benefit. At least, this is the official position of the world’s leader in web search and respectively their justification to the uninvited intervention in your personal life.
In conclusion, Google Now represents the effort of Google to confirm their leadership on the web search market by creating a really intelligent web research tool. But the “price” of using this utility could be a bit high because users’ privacy is involved. So, if you are willing to benefit from this new facility, just make sure your choice is sufficiently informed in order to avoid the bad surprises in the future. Otherwise, “1984” would not be just a fiction book anymore…