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back to article Just add creepiness: Google Search gets even more personal

Google will soon be interrogating its users' Gmail, Google Calendar and Google+ accounts to try and predict the questions they enter into Google Search, bringing the Chocolate Factory's Now functionality into the mainstream. The personalised search is being rolled out slowly, with the US getting it first, but it will respond to …

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jai
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No thanks

They can keep their kool-aid, thanks all the same.

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Pint

Re: No thanks

Don't want the kool-aid? Then have this delicious flavor-aid instead!

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Am I the only one that thinks the more Google has tried to make its search results 'relevant' over the years the more irrelevant those results have become?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, when I search I'm generally looking for something I don't know, what's the point in prioritizing answers from information I already have?

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@Martin

It does seem to have led to more irrelevance, yes. Especially if you happen to be looking for something completely outside of your usual interests. I want things that are relevant to the phrase I've put in the box, not things that might be relevant because someone I follow on Google+ posted about them.

I'm still mourning the loss of the AND (+) operator in search though, I just can't seem to narrow the results down nearly as quickly since they got rid of that (it's been a while now too).

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@Ben

Use duckduckgo.com. Not only do they not track you and respect your privacy a lot better than Google, they also do AND based searches by default (you have to use the OR operator if you want OR-based search) And I've found their search results as relevant as anything Google provides.

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Re: @Martin

Just use double quotes around the terms. That'll AND them.

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WTF?

Re: @Martin

"Just use double quotes around the terms. That'll AND them."

no it doesn't, it just makes them search for the specific string enclosed by your quotes.

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Unhappy

@Ben Tasker

"I'm still mourning the loss of the AND (+) operator in search though, I just can't seem to narrow the results down nearly as quickly since they got rid of that (it's been a while now too)."

That and being able to subset the search result really cut down the cruft .

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Re: @Martin

> "Just use double quotes around the terms. That'll AND them."

> no it doesn't, it just makes them search for the specific string enclosed by your quotes.

Actually, it does both things at the same time. Quotes can be used to group individual words into a single search string, and they also make a search term *required* - even for single words. It's not exactly AND (and never was IIRC), it's more of a statement of importance.

It was google's specific advice, to use quotes around search terms, when they changed the + to be google-plus specific.

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FAIL

Re: @Martin

"I'm still mourning the loss of the AND (+) operator"

Yeah! I really miss that too!

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Re: @Martin

Missing the (+) operator? use quotes instead. So instead of:

+register

do

"register"

Totally bonkers, but that's the way they changed it.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not so difficult at all..

as it takes two to tango. Personally I prefer to tango with someone other than US companies. If you go to bed with them and wake up with syphilis and your confidential information stolen then it's nobodies fault but yours.

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Alert

Re: It's not so difficult at all..

True. But.

What I've been feeling lately is that, I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

There is no realistic scope of significant privacy in this respect, especially being based in the UK. Running my own email server is virtually no benefit, as emails are sent in the clear in almost all situations, always to US or UK based accounts. It's just not practical to get all your correspondents to use PGP or whatever, so whilst there's some advantages to using my own email server, in all likelihood all communication is going to get scanned anyway, and I'm pretty sure I've used enough trigger words that they'd get intercepted and stored by GCHQ/NSA.

So if everything I do is going to get scanned, analysed, and correlated to NO benefit to me, why don't I let everything I do get analysed in a way that IS beneficial to me, by opening myself up to Google Now. It is incredibly convenient in ways you never expect.

It strikes me as far more logical to take all the benefits that I can, rather than crippling my internet functionality for an illusionary increase in privacy.

When I CAN guarantee total privacy in what I do online, I'll jump at it, but for the moment, I don't see what I've got to lose.

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Flame

Re: It's not so difficult at all..

"So if everything I do is going to get scanned, analysed, and correlated to NO benefit to me, why don't I let everything I do get analysed..."

You are "giving away an essential liberty in exchange for" a fucking set of virtual gizmos that at most will save you 10 minutes a day, you muppet!.

We should all consider our duty to make the snooping process as expensive and difficult as is humanly possible. That way the spooks and their masters will need to choose between two options:

- Going after everyone's data -as they are doing now- and going bankrupt as a result.

- Choosing carefully their targets -e.g. real terrorists, paedos, narcs and spies- and stop screwing with honest citizens and their rights.

Obviously, in order to work, the second option requires the intelligence agencies involved to have some degree of intelligence. :-(

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Re: It's not so difficult at all..

That's my instinct, I'll admit!

But short of going totally off-grid, I can't see how you're not ALWAYS giving away those essential liberties anyway. We're too far down this line already.

In terms of Google Now, one of the main things is how it collates your emails with your location. Given that your emails are guaranteed to be intercepted, and we already know your location is being tracked for the security services via your phone company, it makes little difference from a privacy perspective whether or not you're using something like Google Now. If they want, they're already able to easily mine all that data regardless.

At present, I've yet to see how we can effectively make it "as expensive and difficult as is humanly possible", in a way that isn't making it incredibly difficult and inconvenient for us to use the internet.

Most techniques I can see mirror TOR's limitations:

Very effective if used in a strictly controlled fashion, but the security/privacy benefits fall apart when you want to do something flexible.

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Re: It's not so difficult at all..

At present, I've yet to see how we can effectively make it "as expensive and difficult as is humanly possible"

Let's see...

1- Don't use American hosting/cloud companies. This has the added benefit of putting the USA gov under pressure from their own IT companies to stop this nonsense.

2-Don't use 'The Cloud' unless you have no other option. If you do, make sure your provider is in a country where laws protect privacy, and those laws are enforced. I don't doubt They can access that data, but it will take them more time and resources, and put them in a bigger risk.

3- If your contacts don't have PGP installed, point them to instructions on how to install and set it up. For those who have it, exchange the keys using some alternative method.

4- Even if your contacts don't use PGP, you can send them binary files encrypted and compressed with WinZip or some similar tool. Send the passwords by an alternate method (a voice call or a text message, or a handwritten note wherever possible). This is not 'unbreakable' by far, but again they will need more resources and time to access your data.

4- Don't blabber about your private life or the private life of your friends and family in social sites.

5- Don't keep location services for your phone/slab always on.

6- If you are an IT professional, try to make sure your customers know of the privacy/security issues. Making PGP mandatory inside a company is a good starting point.

7- [This space left intentionally blank for your own methods :^) ]

If we all gave this a honest try, surveillance would turn much more expensive and less rewarding for the spooks.

And please take in account that by doing this we are protecting democracy and freedom.

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Unhappy

Re: It's not so difficult at all..

The problem with your list that I can see is that if you follow it, and take other similar actions to avoid interception of your internet use, you risk inviting greater scrutiny, as your behaviour could be profiled as terrorist / paedo / naughty.

Not saying it is right in any way, but it seems to me that we are rapidly heading towards a situation where any attempt to keep data private (particularly email and phone conversations, and web browsing habits) , will automatically be flagged as suspicious.

I notice that certain sections of the UK press have cottoned on to the use of the Tor network, and have labelled it "a tool of paedos".

It would not surprise me if we soon see calls for knee-jerk legislation to try and block anonymising services, VPNs and encryption software.

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Re: It's not so difficult at all..

"...will automatically be flagged as suspicious."

That's what they want us to think, because attacking the privacy of a security-aware citizen is orders of magnitude more expensive. If a big enough percentage of internet users takes these security measures, the spooks will either have to change their methods or expend insane amounts of money to continue with their fishing expeditions.

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Re: It's not so difficult at all..

If a big enough percentage of internet users takes these security measures, the spooks will either have to change their methods or expend insane amounts of money to continue with their fishing expeditions.

...or make them illegal. That seems to be the easy route.

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Childcatcher

"That's what they want us to think"

No, it isn't. That's you being paranoid delusional. Nobody wants us to think anything, they're just trying to get their job done as best they can. Any attempt to second-, double- or triple-guess what "people will think" is SO doomed to failure that nobody wastes any tmie on it.

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Re: It's not so difficult at all..

"The problem with your list that I can see is that if you follow it, and take other similar actions to avoid interception of your internet use, you risk inviting greater scrutiny, as your behaviour could be profiled as terrorist / paedo / naughty."

Unless lots of people are doing it.

And honestly, if various three-letter agencies want to waste their resources spying on little old me... good. The more resources they waste, the better.

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Re: It's not so difficult at all.. (@ Alister)

"...or make them illegal. That seems to be the easy route."

I don't doubt he American govt can make them illegal IN THE USA. The rest of the planet is a different story, though.

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Devil

Why should you have to opt out?

Surely Google could predict that you will want to opt out, and do it for you.

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Google Now

" the Android-based personal concierge application which has revolutionised life for some.... "

If an app can revolutionise your life you are in real deep shit.

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Re: Google Now

Hmm, what about an app that could measure your blood sugar level (assuming you are diabetic) and warn you when you are entering dangerous territory?

/devils advocate

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Re: Google Now

Such an app would be useful, but if you aren't already monitoring your glucose no app is going to help...

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Anonymous Coward

Sir Runcible Spoon - Re: Google Now

Trouble is that with the way Internet works now, that app will blabber about your medical condition to insurance companies, banks and whoever might want to discriminate you or extort more money from you based on your medical condition.

This is the situation that really pisses me off. I don't mind at all giving Google my account details when required by my Android tablet, heck they already have my password. Problem is Android stores these credentials and then each and every application I decide to install feels free to use this information.

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Happy

Re: Google Now

"The user who has bought fully into the Google cloud will benefit most" - so that explains why I'm getting so much porn in my search results now.

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Stop

Re: Google Now

Not at all. Google now is truly awesome. My flight details just appear, it tells me when my parcel has been signed for, it tells me if I am near cool things to do and see.

My life isn't disorganised but Google now makes it better.

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Re: Google Now

That's fine for you, but all Google Now is for me is a fucking annoying swipe action on the home key that gets hit accidentally far too many times.

Fortunately, as I found out here, there's apps to stop that from happening, even if they are a bit hacky and just override the home-key-swipe action with a null.

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Privacy? Oh that was something they had in olden times

Between the dull everyday meaningless rubbish that is much of what is shared on FarceBook and Tweeting and the evermore intrusive personal data mining that is Google (and many others) in the not too far distant future there will be no such thing as personal privacy for any but the odd Kalahari Bushman who has never been within a hundred miles of a PC or Smartphone and even his days could be numbered once there is an antelope tracking app.

If you add to and extend Google search to its ultimate potential what you will have is a virtual nanny, something that will pervade every aspect of your life to help you to 'Maximise' it.

When and what to buy to eat , where to eat it and how to eat it and then subsequently when where and how to go to the toilet and how to eliminate what you have eaten and all that in consumerist terms diguised as being for your own good, all of which will be linked to your personal consumerism and shared by everyone subscribing to that information in order to sell something to you.

I can't begin to imagine where it will all end, luckily having been born when there was a king in the UK; I probably won't get to see the final outcome.

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JDX
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Re: Privacy? Oh that was something they had in olden times

I find that the more someone whinges about privacy, the less there is about them anyone would want to know about.

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@JDX

You say that like privacy is a bad thing.

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Re: Privacy? Oh that was something they had in olden times

And more people need to remember privacy is not secrecy (@JDX). When with friends, if I leave the dinner table enter the WC and lock the door, everyone knows what I'm doing. It's no secret. But it is private.

People need to remember, with Google, you are the product, and they will always be tempted to want to sell your private data.

Check their privacy terms and they say:

"We do not share personal information with companies, organisations and individuals outside Google unless one of the following circumstances applies:

- With your consent

[...]

- With domain administrators

[...]

- For external processing

[...]

- For legal reasons

[...] "

And give an explanation of each of those things (I have omitted for brevity) under each heading.

But the explanation under "for external processing" is as follows:

"We provide personal information to our affiliates or other trusted businesses or persons to process it for us, based on our instructions and in compliance with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures. "

Ask any lawyer; That wording is a get out that overrides the apparent self imposed restrictions of the other bullet points. They can define "affiliate" how they want (they don't provide a legal glossary definition in the doc as you normally would for key terms). So if they simply email data to another company with a confidentiality notice, they could claim that is sufficient by their definition to define that company as an affiliate! They can define "processing for us" as broadly as they like and they can make "based on our instructions" as limited (and near meaningless) as they like. so even the request "tell me how it goes." In an email could be argued sufficient as to establish the company who have been sent the data are processing it for Google (that company processing it for themselves is NOT excluded). I'm not saying they would interpret the doc to this extreme (though if pushed in a legal corner they might), I'm pointing out, it is defined to protect them, whilst charading as self imposed limits protecting the user.

Lastly "in compliance with our Privacy Policy" actually, logically, is an entirely circular argument that is not some independent doc limiting of these permissions - this is their privacy policy!

For me this is the very definition of disingenuous. They have allowed themselves to do pretty much what they want with your private data while dressing it up as a user privacy protection document.

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Re: Privacy? Oh that was something they had in olden times

Who's whingeing? I am making a comment that I think is relevant to the rights that all people should have. ie a measure of privacy and the reasonable expectation that all one does and says is not just sold on to 3rd parties so that they can clutter up our lives with evermore useless advertising for products we can make our own decisions about without their virtues being extolled on every web page we open.

I am quite sure there is little that is interesting about me but the point is about rights not who or what I am.

There are so many uses information can be put that is not beneficial to the individual that I object to it's storage, Oh hold on! if I'm doing nothing bad I have nothing to worry about; Is that right?

I am guessing you are one of the FarceBook generation that feels driven to inform the entire world when you have had a successful trip to the toilet! Well good for you! if that is what rocks your boat but for me I consider that no-ones business but my own.

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Anonymous Coward

One must be a complete idiot

to ask Google to tell him what are his plans for tomorrow. Dude, you made those plans so you should know better than Google!

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JDX
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Re: One must be a complete idiot

A bit like how you're an idiot if you have to check your own diary, because you put the things there in the first place?

Some people really should think a bit more before trying to make others look stupid.

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Re: One must be a complete idiot

Actually, JDX, your comparison to the diary is probably a better example than the original one given. That's completely idiotic. Certainly as much as posting the same drivel on Facebook, Twitter, et al.

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Re: One must be a complete idiot

The diary comparison is certainly a valid one, yes.

But most people don't routinely hand their diaries over to the management of their local shopping centre for perusal to establish what adverts to show you when you walk into the mall.

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Devil

Re: One must be a complete idiot

> One must be a complete idiot to ask Google to tell him what are his plans for tomorrow.

"Tomorrow you will be looking at an advert."

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WTF?

"one could simply refrain from logging into a Google account

– though that has been getting more difficult in recent years."

What's Google got that anyone needs to log in for? I must be one of those odd people who don't leap at the chance to upvote or downvote comments on YouTube or get personalised tumbleweeds on Google+.

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JDX
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Re: "one could simply refrain from logging into a Google account

If you use gmail then you're automatically logged into google. So the answer to "What's Google got that anyone needs to log in for?" could simply be "gmail"

And Drive (Docs) of course, which is a decent tool. And Picassa (if it's still around).

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h3
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Re: "one could simply refrain from logging into a Google account

If you use Android just opening the youtube application once. Automatically does load of stuff (Like sign you up to a weekly email for no reason that you have to turn off).

Everytime you start maps it tries to get you to reenable your search history.

To get verbatim enabled by default it is very annoying. Need to edit the firefox google xml and add :

<Param name="tbs" value="li:1"/>

(Then I changed all the .com's to .co.uk) damn annoying though.

http://pastebin.com/X5aJcuFH (As much for myself as anyone else it was a pita to do).

It gets rid of all that we think you really meant something totally different.

(Windows 8 Mail Client was working flawlessly with activesync until some unknown technical error that I think was deliberate messed it up for me. My work email is still done properly - (procmail and mutt)).

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Re: And Picassa (if it's still around).

Picasa is still around, but you need to create a profile, with all the real names bullshit rules and the unwanted Plus account that comes with it.

I'll just use photobucket, imgur or imageshack, thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And Picassa (if it's still around).

Picasa still has me in as an anonymous bastard, so they haven't forced it on old accounts yet. That being said I only have a couple of old icons stored there. All the real stuff is in imgur.

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JDX
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What's the big deal?

Other than the fact I'm doing it through the Google home-page, what's the story here? I'm not giving Google more info than they already have, and this isn't letting other people search my stuff. It's just a convenient way to let me search across data with multiple Google products, which Google already knows about me.

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Re: What's the big deal?

Microsoft is putting Bing into even your local Windows searches now too. Not much different between the two, but I guess it's "pile on Google" week.

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h3
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Re: What's the big deal?

You can uninstall the bing metro part and as far as I know that is it. (I have not seen anything like that anyway and I did it as soon as I read about it on here).

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Re: What's the big deal?

It's perfectly possible to consider BOTH to be amoral intrusive bastards.

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