Google needs to mind its own business

by Mathew on October 7, 2008 · 24 comments

Google is nothing if not helpful. It will suggest search terms, it will suggest driving directions for you on Google Maps, and now apparently it will suggest that you not send drunken emails late at night on the weekend. Is this what we really want from our Web services? Maybe Google could parse the content of my latest email and tell me whether I’m being a little too harsh with my mother-in-law in that email I just sent about Thanksgiving. Or maybe Google could suggest some other adjectives and adverbs I could use instead. Is that really the kind of help I need?

If we’re talking about protecting people from themselves, why not have a Google mobile GPS unit that can detect the proximity of donut shops or McDonald’s outlets and then send the user a quick text message: “Are you sure you want to buy that breakfast sandwich, Dave?” Just as the Gmail feature forces users who have had too much to drink to answer math questions (which wouldn’t stop my brother, whose math skills are impervious to alcohol consumption), the mobile service could force you to do some jumping-jacks or touch your toes, and if you were incapable of doing so it could disable the wallet function in your handheld.

I realize that this is just a Google Labs tool, which of course you can enable or disable. It just seems a tad paternalistic. And what about the innumerate, who can’t do simple math even when sober? As far as I’m concerned, Gmail should just send the email and shut up about it. When I tell Hal to open the pod-bay doors, he should just open the damn pod-bay doors.

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