Google, Not Now

I used to use Google Now on my Android phone. Its easy identification of my home and work locations and my daily commute was distressing but overall it was mildly useful for some weather, commute times, sports, and random internet stuff once in a while. It gave me some scores when the World Cup was going on without having to type “World Cup” into Android’s all-seeing Google search bar.

One day it started giving me the weather for Boston. I wasn’t in Boston.

It turned out that someone had booked a hotel using the wrong email address, namely mine. This happens often in my inbox. Very, very, very often, a consequence of there being a lot of M Nowaks out there. I get so much misdirected stuff that I have my own label in Gmail for it — whothefuck — and dozens and dozens of filters. At current count, the whothefuck label has 7,556 emails. The latest is a confirmation of an upcoming dental appointment for a Mary in Rome, New York.

I’ve tried unsubscribing from a lot of these but it doesn’t help. It just makes it worse.

I know all these emails aren’t for me and I filter them but Google, for all its supposed algorithmic smarts, doesn’t. So it gives me the weather in Boston. It gives me notifications about AT&T bill payments even though AT&T doesn’t operate here. It reminds me about a flight I’m not taking and tells me what time I have to leave from home to make it. It gives me even more noise on top of the noise.


I tried Google Inbox and it was more of the same. My Purchases bundle is full of stuff I didn’t buy. In GMail, all of that was automatically hidden from me via filters. In Inbox it’s all in full view. This thing that is meant to organize my stuff and make life easier — The inbox that works for you as Google says — is just giving me more to do simply because of the incorrect assumption that everything I get in my inbox is wanted. They think that everything online is wanted. It’s the opposite. Most of everything online is unwanted. All of the trackers, and beacons, and featured links, and recommendations, and share buttons, and “get our app” notifications, and subscription pay-walls, and comments, and advertisements, especially advertisements, are noise. And you can’t expect an ad company to highlight what we really want.

And Google Now is not what I want.

Related reading list:

Why Google Wants to Replace Gmail

Google Reminds You That Glass Is For the Rich—And So Is the Future

How Gmail Happened: The Inside Story of Its Launch 10 Years Ago

Facebook’s Gateway Drug

The Creepy New Wave Internet :

as human behavior is tracked and merchandized on a massive scale, the Internet of Things creates the perfect conditions to bolster and expand the surveillance state. In the world of the Internet of Things, your car, your heating system, your refrigerator, your fitness apps, your credit card, your television set, your window shades, your scale, your medications, your camera, your heart rate monitor, your electric toothbrush, and your washing machine—to say nothing of your phone—generate a continuous stream of data that resides largely out of reach of the individual but not of those willing to pay for it or in other ways commandeer it.

All Cameras are Police Cameras

Waning Anonymity

And, lastly, I just read something on the internet. Discovery is Broken

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