Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) calls it “Helpful, yes, but still super creepy“: Google knows all about your plane tickets, just by following your email…
Google will even insert the flight into our calendar, if you have one. Great, isn’t it?
Well, it isn’t all that great. I can give you two reasons why this shouldn’t happen.
First of all, it’s an intrusion of privacy to insert appointments or events into a calendar without explicit consent of the owner of said calendar (I won’t talk about the fact that Google reads your mail; if you don’t like that, you should just run your own mail server). So if Google wants to do this, they should at least ask permission to do so before adding to the calendar.
Secondly, interpreting emails (and attachments, I suppose) is hard – people make mistakes in reading mail, notices, letters, books, etc. And Google makes mistakes too. In my case, Google found out about our holiday plans – but entered the flight on the wrong date, a week before it is supposed to happen. Is that the only mistake, or did it also miscalculate the time difference between Belgium and our destination? And what about the other info about the flights? How can I trust Google to get all that data right?
In summary it is very clear: what Google tries is creepy… and not helpful. My calendar is meant to be precise, so please let all mistakes be mine, and mine only! It all comes down to “trust”, in the end. So far, I trust Google not to abuse the info it reads in my mail. But I also need to be able to trust the information entered in to my calendar, and that’s where Google failed.
If anyone is going to help me indicate when not to miss a plane, it should be the flight organiser or the travel agency – and they too need my permission before touching my calendar!
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All this on a day when I talked to a co-worker about setting up one’s own mail server in the cloud. What a coincidence!