Mind-predicting tech blurs convenience and privacy

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Google Now
Google Now will make predictions without you asking!

When you type in the search bar of the Google search engine, a drop menu will have suggested search phrases before you have the chance to hit ‘enter’. This is a basic type of predictive technology – software that makes suggestions based on what it thinks you’ll want. It appears that gadgets equipped with these guesstimating powers are getting more advanced and personalized, but are predictions going to get too personal and invade our privacy?

The key feature behind good predictions is data; the more data a software program has to work with, the more accurately it can provide suggestions for a user.

In some cases, this can be used for good, especially in the medical field. For example, there has been a rise in gadgets such as fitness trackers which can monitor different behaviors and give basic health recommendations. Some experts predict doctors can use predictive technology to better treat their patients in the future.

In fields outside of health, however, predictive technology can be scary accurate. For instance, the company Expect Labs is working on a Skype-like app called MindMeld. While video chatting, the app will basically listen in on your conversations and keep track of what you say. Then, it will use that to pull up web recommendations. For example, say you’re chatting with a friend about taking a Hawaii vacation; the app will pick up on a few key words and pull up relevant information like hotel prices in Hawaii, plane ticket prices, and popular tourist sights!

There are also rumors that Google is working on a smartwatch that will work primarily with the predictive app Google Now. Instead of just notifying a wearer when they receive a text or email, the smartwatch will do things like make restaurant recommendations and provide directions to your next destination… without you asking!

So, while predictive technology could be used to save lives, it can come off as prying and intrusive in our personal lives. Something tells me people aren’t going to be too happy with apps that feature eavesdropping technology, especially with the latest government scandals. How much privacy are we willing to give up in the name of convenience?

Featured image courtesy of Walt Disney and Marvel Comics. Image of Google Now courtesy of Google.