Google Provides Personalized Results
Google automatically detects your location and sets your location of search for you. Then, all of your search results are tailored around that geography in order to provide you with the most relevant results. It’s possible to see what yours is set to by looking here:
On my desktop, my location displays as Aspen, which is where my internet service provider is located, so my search results are localized for that location. However, I actually live about 40 miles northwest of Aspen, so those results are often not the ones I wish to see. If I want to see businesses in or near my town, Glenwood Springs, in my search queries I must manually set my location. This is the best Google can do on most desktop PCs.
However, when I’m using my smartphone and have location detection enabled, I’m shown businesses nearby me even when I’m a thousand miles away from home. Location-awareness is one of the prime methods that Google uses to provide us all with the best search results possible.
It’s a Wild, Wired World
I have been fascinated with the possibilities of the world wide web since I connected to AOL through a long distance dial-up phone number in the early 1990’s and I’ve been immersed in understanding how Google works as an occupation since 2003. So while everyone around me was attracted to trendy iPhones, I’ve always opted for an Android-based smartphone because it can be automatically synced with all of my other Google stuff, such as my email, calendar and browser (Chrome, of course) history. Little did I suspect just how well-synced all my Google stuff would become.
In June, my LocalU business partners and I planned a trip to Seattle to hold an Advanced LocalU in conjunction with SMX Advanced. Everyone emailed their flight information to my Gmail address so that we could coordinate our activities on arrival. I put all of this information into a shared Google docs spreadsheet so everyone could have easy access.
On the morning of travel, I wasn’t at all surprised to see Google Now information cards alerting me about the status of my flight. However, I was stunned when I began getting information via Now on the status of everyone else’s flights. Knowing who was delayed and who would be in on time was extremely useful in this situation.
I had also made hotel reservations for Seattle before leaving home and casually searched for restaurants nearby. When I arrived at the Seattle airport, my phone showed me a Now card giving me the phone number, address and directions to my hotel. As I traveled into the downtown area, more Now cards appeared showing me detailed information about those eateries I hate researched at home, such as hours, type of cuisine, links to their menus and more. Throughout my stay in Seattle, Google showed me cards reminding me of meetings that I had recorded on my calendar and giving me directions and time of travel (by walking, biking, car or public transit) to those locations.
The location awareness capabilities of our smartphones and their apps and the syncing of the Google platforms we use across devices, coupled with the ever-increasing personalization of the Google search results presents both Google and its users with a dilemma. The more we share with Google, the more useful information it can provide to us is and the more it can help us with our everyday tasks.
However, Americans seem to be quite concerned with their privacy and we all need to decide how much privacy we are willing to give up in order to get what we want from this wild, wired world we live in. I’m all in. How about you?