“I know what you did last summer.. and pretty much everyday!” — Check out your life catalogued on Google
Couple of weeks back, I was in Bangalore to conduct a workshop at the National Institute of Design (NID), Bangalore. After reaching the hotel, I googled the NID location on map to check distance and the commute time. As I was about to close the page, I stumbled upon a small link on the left that said ‘You last visited 11 months ago’.
I was surprised, since I had indeed been to NID a year back, for an earlier workshop. Intrigued, I clicked on it and saw the below:
Now this got interesting since it showed the actual date of visit in 2015 and not just that, but where I stayed (Ivory Studio One at Indiranagar) and when I travelled that day, how long I was at NID, and when I left. And then I noticed the bars at the top which seemed to have similar catalogued information, for other days as well. To investigate further, I clicked on the next day. Now it started getting beyond interesting:
This showed my itinerary on the next day, after I had got back to Hyderabad. It had a complete chronicle of the day — the time I left home, the bakeries I had visited to book a cake for my kid’s first birthday party. The cake pictures I had taken at the bakery on my mobile phone (and which was backed up on Google photos) is neatly catalogued alongside.
The timeline continued to show Karachi bakery, the last one I had visited and where I finalized the cake. Then, it showed my visit to the printers for the birthday cards — and the rest of day at office — time I travelled home — the route I took that day — and Google’s guess of whether I drove, cycled, took train or walked, perhaps based on the speed of movement. Now this was just too much of my personal life catalogued, and it was quite eerie! The only apparent comfort being Google’s assurance that this information is safe & private, until I choose to make it public.
Finally, to understand what else was up for grabs from my google-created life travelogue, I explored further and discovered a variety of rich information — all my trips by year; every single place I had visited; the favorite joints; average travel per day and so on and on. All this information was available for a historical period of 3 years, which was when I transitioned to an Android smartphone, and incidentally handed over my life to Google!
Now, all along I knew Google has been storing my data — my Google searches, my Android phone location, map searches, photos backed up, my office inbox, my calendar. Being a data afficionado and one who takes out time to track all possible data points in the daily events, this was a conscious choice and something I have been excited about. But what caught me by surprise here was the neat processing and linking up all of these together to create a rich and frightening catalogue, which leaves nothing to imagination.
For now, I will definitely continue giving out my data, but will be a bit more circumspect about the possibilities.