Google is testing a new feature that allows them to show personal data within the search results. This addition has seen a mixed reception so far, with some users considering it to be rather creepy, although the data that is being shown is pulled purely from other Google services, and is visible only to that user, not shared with others.
Google is pulling information from user’s Google Maps and Gmail accounts. If you search for a place, and the user has favourited that place or flagged it as home or work, then it will be shown there. If you have purchased something, then that might show up too. Google will look at your email to find information about bills, packages, hotel reservations flights and more.
Your Personal Search Engine
You can take this one step further – search ‘my photos’ and you can see your Google Photos. If you geotag the photos then it will be able to find them by location. Search for ‘my reservations’ and find out what upcoming hotel or restaurant reservations you have. Or, if you’re working on your accounts, search ‘my BT bills 2015’ and get a list of all your phone bills.
To some, this is a great time saver. To others, it’s a potential minefield. Imagine if ‘my purchases’ throws up that engagement ring that you were planning on giving as a rather nice surprise!
The Next Step for Google Now
All of these features could be seen as the next step towards a fully functional Google Now – and if you want that, then it’s a great idea. However, if you are concerned about privacy and don’t want things that you have been searching for at home popping up on your work PC, then Google’s latest integrations may not be for you.
As a marketer, having access to all of this extra information (even indirectly, in the form of even better targeting for paid search) could be a dream come true. As a user, it could be a massive breach of privacy. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that users can do if they want to resist this ‘progress’, except either log out of their Google accounts when they want privacy, or start using one of the other major search engines instead. There are privacy-focused search engines such as Duck Duck Go, which are designed as an alternative to these new practices.