I trust that we have all seen and been at least slightly disturbed by The Selfish Ledger the nearly 9-minute conceptual video of the X laboratories of Google's "instant imaging factory" . As a result of being made public this week, Google quickly disavowed the video, claiming it was just a thought experiment "unrelated to any current or future product." And yet, the company's patent applications show a way of thinking that works at least in parallel, if not on the same tracks, as The Selfish Ledger & # 39; s total proposal for compilation of data.
A reader pointed me in the direction of a Google patent application of 2015, made public last year, entitled "Detection and correction of potential errors in user behavior." A central part of the concept Selfish Ledger can be defined in very similar terms: its premise, at the individual level, is to help users self-manage. improvement and behavior modification.
Honestly, the idea described in this patent document sounds of all kinds useful. It proposes a system in which your device would use the information that Google already collects, such as travel itineraries from your email inbox, and will act on that knowledge if it detects that it is going astray. So, if, like me on at least one occasion, you start going to the wrong airport, your phone would be smart enough to warn you that you're going the wrong way.
However, to be useful, your phone would require a fairly intimate knowledge of your life. In addition to knowing your plans in advance, you should also know your usual driving or travel patterns, and you should know your current location and activity to determine if it is aligned with the plan indicated above. This is the eternal dichotomy of Google services: they are really useful and help, but what part of your privacy are you willing to give to Google for that convenience?
Another Google patent application, also from 2015 and public since last year, is entitled "Purchases guided through smartphones". This is an automatic shopping assistant, which is activated when it detects that you are viewing a product that the system can help you buy. Let's say you're browsing the latest sneakers at phone reviews for High Snobiety or The Verge . That is when the system will be offered to guide you through a purchasing process that has you to select type of product, characteristics, model and merchant.
In order to provide users with the correct orientation to complete a purchase, the proposed system would use the information obtained from previous users who had performed the required task sequence. To quote, "it would determine an order for tasks within the associated sequence of tasks based, at least in part, on information collected from consumers who have performed some or all of the tasks in the associated task sequence." Does this sound like The Selfish Ledger yet?
One of the secondary claims in this "guided purchase" patent application inserts advertisers in the final stages of the purchase process. Specifically, Google would collect offers from companies that want their products to appear in searches for specific products within this system. In this regard, the patent application departs from the highlights Brave New World from The Selfish Ledger and returns directly to what makes money for Google: create new services that help Advertisers to show off their assets.
What struck me the most, witnessing the very negative reaction to The Selfish Ledger has been the way few people really understand the scope of data collection that Google already is dedicated to . The Selfish Ledger is not a radical departure from current Google practices, it's just a conceptual video that takes them to their logical extreme.