Friday, 30 August 2013

Google is Unrolling Personalised Search. Should you use it?

When it comes to digital security, it’s a mistake to put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t use the same password for more than one account; don’t use the same browser for banking and surfing; and don’t use the same company for your email, search and storage needs.

Google, however, has other plans. The tech giant announced it will unroll an invasive a personalised search functionality that will effectively integrate users’ Gmail, Google Calendar and Google+ accounts with Google Search.

Google provided a few examples of the system's functionality on their blog. 
  • Flights: Ask Google “Is my flight on time?” to get info on your upcoming flights and live status on your current flights. 
  • Reservations: Ask for “my reservations” to see your dining plans or “my hotel” to get your hotel name and address. With one tap, you can get driving or public transit directions straight to your destination, saving you lots of steps.
  • Purchases: Ask for “my purchases,” and you’ll get the status of your current orders, so you know whether your mom’s birthday present will arrive on time.
  • Plans: Ask Google “What are my plans for tomorrow?” to see a summary of upcoming flights, hotels, restaurant reservations and events—very useful when you’re traveling. 
  • Photos: Say “Show me my photos from Thailand” to see the photos you uploaded to Google+. You can also ask for “my photos of sunsets” if you want to show off the shots you’ve taken over the year; Google will try to automatically recognize the type of photo you’re asking for.
The new system will be rolled out gradually. According to Google, U.S.-based users will be the first to try it out.

Officially, this system isn’t any less secure than your existing Google account. As Google explains on their blog, the data will be “secure, via an encrypted connection, and visible only to you when you're signed in to Google.” The problem, however, is with the behavior it encourages.

It’s no secret that Google has striven to become an all-inclusive operation when it comes to users’ online needs. And frankly, bundling features like Gmail, Google+ and Google Drive together provides a great deal of convenience. Unfortunately, that convenience comes at a cost. And what you might gain in efficiency, you’ll lose in security.

If you use three separate providers for your email, social networking, and cloud storage, when one becomes compromised, the others remain secure. But if a user moves all of his or her data under the Google umbrella, it only takes one hacked password to expose all of their information.

Again, this system won’t make your account any easier to hack. It will just make the consequences more dire should a hack occur. So, before you dive head-first into the Googleplex, make sure your data is stored and managed in a secure way.

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