Are Google Searches Turning into Spy Missions?

Back in 1998, the idea that a search engine could help you through the increasingly labyrinthine Internet  sounded great. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched its helping hand and, fifteen years later, commands an empire few even consider challenging. Yet Google’s robust growth has been a product of its unwavering dedication to the upgrade of its search engine. Will the process end up changing Internet searches into outright investigations into people’s lives?

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Anyone who hopes a Google search yields perfect results every time might realize that it takes an intimate knowledge of the person searching to deliver that level of service. In fact, it will take a Star Trek-like system of communication between humanoid and computer to get it right. Google has an app for that, known as Google Now, which appears poised to challenge Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri for dominance in the human-robot interaction domain.

Time’s Harry McCracken recently broached the subject with Amit Singhal, Google’s Senior VP in the search department. While McCracken tried to understand the reach of Google Now with respect to privacy, Singhal focused on the ways in which Google Now helped him. He described the value of Google Now as “tremendous” and called the system’s pointing out you’re going to be late for an appointment akin to “a magical moment.” Others might call it spying…

McCracken noted that Google as is can note where you’re going everyday at 9 A.M. (where you work), what type of restaurants you’re researching (what you eat) and what packages you’re expecting in the mail (what you buy). There are opportunities to help the user — regarding transit delays, the lack of tables at 7:30 and a missed delivery, respectively — and there are huge advantages in the advertising and selling departments as well.

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Google has been fined, questioned and sued over privacy issues on a number of occasions, yet the search engine giant continues to expand unabated, with new projects constantly in the works. Its latest efforts, including Google Glass (its wearable tech) and Fiber (its Internet service), are no less successful. One day, its search capabilities could eclipse what Captain Kirk and old Mr. Spock use to pull off on Star Trek. Will it take a full renunciation of privacy rights to get there?

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