Google announces creepy/useful features

Martin Brinkmann
May 17, 2017
Updated • May 22, 2018
Companies, Google

Creepy? Useful? Both? Google announced a slew of new features coming to Google Photos, Gmail and other company products designed to make life just a tad easier.

Google Photos got Suggested Sharing and Shared Libraries for instance. Suggested Sharing is a new feature that suggests contacts to share photos with based on who is on these photos. If you take a photo of your friends at a party, Google Photos might identify those on the photos, and suggest you share the photos with them.

Shared Libraries on the other hand brings photos from different phones together in a single library based on things or people that you want to share with another person. A couple could select to share photos of their children for instance, or their dog. For that, all that it would take is to select photos that show people or objects, so that Google may identify them in future photos taken on the device or uploaded to Google Photos.

Gmail's Smart Reply feature on Android or iOS makes replying to emails easier by suggesting short answers.

suggested sharing google

If you look at these features, you may find them useful, or not, depending on how you use Google services and devices.

If you like to share photos for instance, you may find the two new Google Photos features useful. Gmail users who get a lot of emails that require just a simple response, may like the new Smart Reply feature.

If you dig a bit deeper however, you will realize that Google needs access to information for that functionality. If Google cannot read emails for instance, its algorithm cannot come up with replies to messages.

And if it does not use facial recognition or object identification when you upload new photos to Google Photos, it cannot really help you with the sharing functionality. Also, it needs access to contact information to connect people or objects to the list to find suitable sharing candidates.

As Alex Cranz points out correctly on Gizmodo, Google's business is to know as much as possible about each and everyone in order to make as much money as possible using those information.

This does not mean that Google users don't benefit from these information as well, as Google pushes out a constant stream of new features or apps that makes life easier for Google users who use them.

But how easy is easy enough, especially if you weigh this against the privacy implications? Do you really need reminders by an algorithm when it comes to sharing photos on your devices? Or automatic replies for emails?

You might say that it does not really matter anymore at this point, as Google is already reading your emails, and probably also using object identification algorithms to find out more about what is shown on photos.

Still, you may wonder where all of this will end. Will an AI take over the sharing, emailing and communicating for you in the future?

Google revealed today that more than 500 million people are using Google Photos to back up more than 1.2 billion photos and videos per day.

Now You: Do you find these features useful? Do you use others that Google or other companies rolled out in the past?

Google announces creepy/useful features
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Google announces creepy/useful features
Creepy? Useful? Both? Google announced a slew of new features coming to Google Photos, Gmail and other company products designed to make life just a tad easier.
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  1. Robert Headley said on May 20, 2017 at 10:34 am

    It is going to happen in the background anyway. Might as well make it useful to users as well.

  2. Alfonso said on May 19, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Google lost all my pictures and albums I had with some of my friends. (10 months ago) All the “Help>>NO HELP” I got from them does not work. I know I’m not alone in this situation. Just go and check the blogs. Google and Facebook do not help you at all. They throw a bunch of stuff at you to see what and if it works. It’s a disgrace!!!

  3. Luca said on May 18, 2017 at 8:29 am

    See this movie: “The Circle” (also available as book)

  4. Jojo said on May 18, 2017 at 4:58 am

    Google knows all about me so don’t much care.

    What bothers me about Google is how boring most of their product enhancements are (not just what was announced today). Is this the best a multi-billion $$ technology company with 57,000+ employees can come up?

    Forwarding photos to others they recognize in your photos? Or Smart Reply because I am too overloaded to type “OK” or “See you there” or whatever? Whew.

    Look at Android, for instance. I have a Nexus 6P phone and the Google camera app sucks when compared against say “Open Camera” or others. They STILL don’t offer RAW support.

    Also in phones, a good number of Google Pixel and Nexus owners keep complaining on the forums about Bluetooth problems and finger print sensor problems, among numerous other issues while the rare Google rep who shows up now and then mainly posts “We’re working on it” (whatever the current “it” may be).

    Google Play can’t even get my song library hosted on them correct. I have 14k tracks up on GP. But they show me albums with one or two songs all through my library. If they can’t even recognize what songs go with what albums, how are they going to recognize who is in photographs?

    I want to be impressed Google, not bored! Meh.

    1. Tony said on May 18, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      I agree with Jojo. In my experience, the quality of Google products is sub-par.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 18, 2017 at 6:32 am

      That’s a good question. Only Google knows the answer to that but my bet is on either a) they don’t have to spend more resources on these things because users use them anyway, or b) because most users favor features these days that automate things for them or make things easier in other ways.

      1. Jojo said on May 19, 2017 at 4:14 am

        Ha! I am not alone.
        Boring Google
        Thursday, May 18, 2017

  5. Chris said on May 18, 2017 at 2:14 am

    “Google revealed today that more than 500 million people are using Google Photos to back up more than 1.2 billion photos and videos per day.”

    That’s more than 500 million dumb sheeples that are trusting a company that claims to “do no evil”, while often doing just the opposite.

    1. allen said on May 18, 2017 at 6:37 am

      The photos you take are automatically backed up to Google server unless you turn off the setting.
      I see no problem with Google doing that unless you never take precious photos with your phone.

  6. Rick A. said on May 18, 2017 at 1:58 am

    “You might say that it does not really matter anymore at this point, as Google is already reading your emails” – i wouldn’t say that as they aren’t reading my e-mails. Scroogle.

  7. Tom Hawack said on May 17, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    The Facebook syndrome. Why go elsewhere when we have it all in one place?
    Facebook simply applied the supermarket syndrome itself., and Google is trying to catch up.
    They all do, they all want to have it all, opposing monopoly to diversity, unity to pluralism.
    This breaks everything, other businesses as well as customers/users freedom of choice, not to mention privacy.

    Not for me. I prefer to get my flowers in one place, food in a small boutique, liquors and medicine (no relevance here) in their dedicated businesses. As well, images here, videos there, a service up-left and a blog down the corner.

    I just can’t stand this black hole monopoly.

  8. Yuliya said on May 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    Do you realise how much information Google has to have about it’s users on average if they’re confident enough to roll out such a feature? o.O The gallery thing I’m talking about. They know your face, so “they look” on your pictures from Drive, your contacts and location, since they’re by default synced and location history is on by default too, to know who you’re interacting with from nearby. At least, there must be more, just having someone in your contacts list does not mean you want to share a picture with them. Horrible!

    I don’t have their spyware gallery application on my phone. I use the default one from Lineage, and it’s the dumbest thing on Earth, unaware of the existence of the internet. And that makes it the best gallery application imo.

    For the Gmail stuff I assume it would barely work on English, and fail on all other languages. I know GTranslate is fairly bad when Russian and Ukrainian languages get involved, in comparison to Yandex. I find it hard to believe their Gmail algorithm is any better at coming up with a coherent phrase in the context of an e-mail.

  9. D said on May 17, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Dear Martin, It will be nice if you can write also an article about choose and options to swith all this off, when they are not needed.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 18, 2017 at 6:34 am

      I’ll do that once they land, and once I have a device that supports them ;)

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