The next few days will see Google upping the search ante again, whether you’re looking for information in Gmail, Google Calendar or Google+. In Google Search, users will be able to ask questions like what is their flight status or when an expected package will arrive, without having to troll through their emails or delivery tracking information, according to the company’s blog.
Essentially, Google Now capabilities for Android, iPhones and iPads, is coming to Google Search, for all U.S. English-speaking users on tablets, smartphones and desktops too. Both voice and typed search queries are supported. According to the blog, users will be able to get information on their upcoming flights and live status on current flights; see dining plans or hotel stays by querying for their reservations; see what’s on the charge card and order status by asking about their purchases; view their upcoming schedules by asking about tomorrow’s plans; or explore images – by what’s in them or their relationship to trips or events – that they’ve uploaded to Google Plus.
Google is pulling from its swath of connections “trying to understand you,” says David Amerland, author of the new book, Google Semantic Search.
It’s another step on the road from search engine to predictive engine. “All the elements going to semantic search will help search evolve into a place where you have a search agent, like Google, that does things for you and gives you answers to questions before you have to ask for it,” he says.
The personal information will be visible only to users when they are signed in to Google. It is possible to temporarily or permanently turn off the new capability; users can do the latter by opting out of its Private Results search setting. That said, Google’s getting its share of flack for steps that consumer watchdog groups say are infringing on privacy.
A court filing this week reportedly had Google admitting it does automated processing on Gmail emails, and that users should have no reasonable expectations that their communications are confidential. Scanning for keywords in Gmails can surface information for targeting ads, according to a class action lawsuit filed against Google in May that says the vendor “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages.”