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Google Now Is Watching You
The new OS feature Google Now is practical now, but will it become overly invasive?
On the new start slider, when bringing the phone to life, you can slide to the right to go to the phone itself. If you go to the left, you can activate the camera immediately. If you go to the top, you get Google Now, probably the niftiest or the creepiest feature ever developed.
It takes what you’ve been doing on the desktop and makes assumptions, which are then passed to the phone. It’s all part of your Google account, if you have one, but you can always sign out. There is not much to it at first, then it begins to spy on your activity in an effort to “help” you. Personally, I’m more fascinated than creeped out by the thing.
It figured out where I live right away, based on various trips I may have planned on Google Maps. It can therefore always tell me exactly how many minutes away from home I am, taking traffic into account. That’s cute. Early on, it gave me San Francisco Giants scores since I had checked the schedule and live near the stadium. Out of the blue, it began to give me Oakland A’s scores too.
It always displays the weather, but that’s easy. So as a test, I looked up the address of a butcher in Modesto who was cutting up some locker beef for me. I needed the address so I could punch it into the phone. When I got into my car to turn on the phone’s navigation tool, it was already running in the main screen. I didn’t need to punch in anything and I did not have to boot to Google Now either.
I’m told that if I have an appointment scheduled in my Google calendar, Google Now will calculate the distance and, if I’m cutting it close on time, pop up to warn me that I should leave.
When Google rolled out this system, it mentioned certain features like the ability to provide a bus schedule automatically when it senses you are waiting at a bus stop. It makes assumptions and, if the assumptions are wrong, you just hit the back key and that’s the end of it. Luckily, it’s not really annoying when it makes wrong assumptions. It’s actually fascinating.
I do not know what this system is capable of, but I like what I see so far, even though it may be potentially onerous. The phone (in conjunction with Google) is watching you. It will likely one day be used in a court of law to provide an alibi or proof of wrongdoing.
Right now, it’s a useful curiosity and more interesting than Apple’s Siri because it doesn’t do everything you tell it to do, but it does what it thinks you want to it do.
It seems it will also be extracting information you have on your Google+ social network. Who knows what those results will bring.
By John C. Dvorak, PCMag