Computers Make Life Easier And Scarier

google-now-screenI’m very confused. Computers looking over my shoulder have made life easier and scarier. This isn’t a new subject from me, but it hit home last week as we prepared to leave for the weekend.

My phone and tablet both run the Android operating system. That means they both have Google Now, which claims:

“Just the right information at the right time.”

I opened Google Now and saw my flight times listed. I didn’t tell Google I was flying. It figured that out from reading my email.

It figures a lot out from what I do.

There are currently offers to track packages heading my way and links to articles about Comet Ison. It knows about the packages from my email and the comet from my browsing history.

Google Location historyMy weather is there too. While in Milwaukee, Google Now posted the local forecast plus a link to the weather at home.

It knows where home is.

Because I often use my cellphone’s GPS there are maps tracking my every move! Actually, I’m tracked when I’m not using the GPS too. The readings just aren’t taken as often.

Google Location history 2I assume Google can figure out who my doctor is and where we shop for groceries. It knew I was at Fenway Park June 24th. It can tell when I’ve spent the day at home.

Remember, it’s not just my location they know. Google also knows what’s at those locations.

I can turn most of this off. I don’t. There are two main reasons.

First, if I turn it off I’m the only one deprived of the info. Google and their pals will still know.

Second, it’s valuable to me.

Having my flight information, or weather in a strange city, or sports scores from just the teams I follow are more valuable when easily found.

Having Google Now is like having my own personal assistant. Does it know any less than a flesh and blood personal assistant would?

The downside is this information will be used in ways we can hardly imagine. And it will be used without your knowledge even when it’s wrong!

While we were in Milwaukee my GPS readout briefly shows me at my parents old condo in Florida. Who do I see to correct that glitch?

When the government pushes back against fears of surveillance it’s often stated the information is anonymized. Red herring. My actual name is the least important part of this equation.

I’m truly conflicted about all this. So much power to do good. So much potential to be evil.

One Response to “Computers Make Life Easier And Scarier”

  1. Keith says:

    That’s why I have resisted the urge to use Gmail for much of anything. Yes, I know other providers are undoubtedly doing the same things, but they seem less “hah! see what we know about you?” about it. Google seems to revel in rubbing your face in it.

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