Google: I think We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Yesterday, I sent an email in which I had written a list.

I wrote,

Dear Person, Below, I’ve included….

And a little pop-up from Google arose to say,

“Warning: You’ve written ‘I’ve included’ but you haven’t attached any attachments. Did you forget to add them?

At first I was annoyed that Google didn’t have enough vision or perspective to either a) realize that it was possible to include things in an email that weren’t attachments and that b) Google hadn’t read the rest of my email and learned that I’d included everything I needed.

Then I realized: Google read my email.

I know. It’s automated. But, the data, or the algorithm, or the coding or whatever, is recorded. And someone, somewhere (probably in Palo Alto) knows how to read it.

Plus, it’s not as though “I’ve included” means the same thing as “I’ve attached.” That means that Google has been reading my email, and everyone else’s, for a while, and determined that frequently, people who add attachments write, “I’ve included.”

Call me crazy, but I found this somewhat horrifying. I mean, Big Brother is seriously watching! I’m sure this is one of the things that Google has deluded themselves into thinking is an added benefit of Gmail. And I guess technically it is. Sending emails and forgetting to add attachments is embarrassing. But still, I thought, give us privacy! Let us make our mistakes!! After all, I thought, mistakes are human! They help us grow!

I was on a vendetta for about 24 hours, until I actually made a mistake. Of course, as we all know, mistakes are great..until you make one. For example, sending an email invite to a party and making a joke about BCCing on the invite…but not BCCing…which I did today.* Immediately I changed my tune.

Furiously, I thought, Come on, Google! Where was the little pop-up that said, “You claim to have used BCC but you didn’t?” I guess they’re not reading as closely as I thought, which is kind of a bummer. I mean, if wanted to feel like I was screaming into the abyss, I’d go on Facebook.

*I also misspelled the word “oops” in the subject line. Yeah, I know…


3 thoughts on “Google: I think We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

  1. The first thing I do upon getting a new computer and re-uploading Word is to update all the auto-correct, grammar check, check-spelling-as-you-type, etc. crap…and I've told numerous students to do the same when they've brought me papers with horribly unnatural sentences and I've said “why didn't you just write [sentence writing in the kind of language human beings actually use]?” to which they've answered “I did, but the grammar check told me it was wrong…”

    So, really, my problem is not only these programs with their know-it-all virtual attitudes (and their often being wrong–such as insisting “that” should be used when “who” is more appropriate) but the fact that people are letting them overrule their own judgement…i.e. they're only big brother if you let them be Big Brother…personally, I just consider them Irritating Brother…

  2. Google has been reading your email from the beginning. That's how they use gmail to make money. Look at the ads that appear to the right of the piece of email that you're dealing with. Those ads are targeted to you based on what's in the email itself. Their goal is to unobtrusively distract you from your mailand get you to click on the link. I've actually started writing an email to someone before to ask a question, seen an ad appear with a link to the answer, and ended up clicking through and never finishing the email.

    This is just a variation of what Google does with Search ads. And of course, if you search google and write emails from the same browser, it's all part of the same user history. So it's possible that you will get a search result, or a search ad, based on something that you wrote (or read) an email about.

    And then there's google maps…


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