Google’s decision to constantly make their search results more personalized for every user has often been criticized for veering into the “invasion of privacy” area from time to time. Its latest experiment takes that to the extreme, with a whole new tab devoted just to you.
The search engine now allows you to filter search results for your personal information collected from Google’s apps, including Gmail, Photos, and Calendar.
The new experiment can be found for most users by clicking “More” on the search results page, which will drop down a list of search options. Click “Personal” and you’ll find only information directly related to yourself, such as events you have in your calendar or recent emails.
Most of this isn’t too eye-raising. It could even be useful in the right circumstances. Where it starts to get weird is when you search for pictures. The personal search feature finds photos that are not necessarily on the device you’re using. It also finds pictures based on the content, even when you haven’t labeled the picture.
To give you an example, I’ve taken a lot of photos of my cat on my phone. I’ve never labeled any of them as being of my cat or shared them to my computer. But, when I search “cat” within the results, I am shown my collection of pictures of my cat Magnitude.
The tool can also be used to find photos of people you know on your phone, as Kevin Murnane reports for Forbes.
Unsurprisingly, the “Personal” search results tab also includes ads at the bottom of the page. Reports vary between one and three ads on any personal page.
Since it is just an experiment, there is no telling whether the feature is around to stay. It first appeared a few days ago, but went offline for a period before reappearing today. It has only been spotted on Chrome for desktop devices, but it could be rolled out to other devices at some point. It could also be removed entirely, if people respond negatively to having Google snooping through their emails.