Predictive Search, Good or Bad?

February 26, 2018 2 min read

Predictive Search, Good or Bad?

The other day I read an article which talked about a new technology called predictive search. This is a type of service that knows what you need before you even ask for it. In a way, it is similar to how your phone might learn where your home and work locations are by using GPS data. After a few points of data your device can determine key locations and have their travel times already calculated, without you needing to input them. This is one of those applications of GPS tracking that I find incredibly useful for myself, but am also hesitant about it because of what could happen if that information got into the wrong hands.

What makes predictive search unique is that it will gather information from everything you do. It will look at emails you write, calendar entries, GPS locations, any digital activity you do. With this information it can do things like remind you of a meeting at 10:00am and that you need to leave 20 minutes earlier than normal because there is heavy traffic. This isn’t something that you’ll be able to just download and have working right away though. It’ll take a lot of time for the software to learn you and your behaviors in order to make more and more accurate predictions. To me it’s a very exciting idea because I can see the potential time saved down the line once enough information has been gathered. This same information is already being gathered to direct more relevant ads and content to me, which I think is great. I would much rather see an ad for a product that I really am interested in, than some random ad based on very broad demographics. From a business perspective, I can also see the huge efficiency increases by being able to find your target consumers quicker and easier. Yet I still find myself hesitant about jumping on board with allowing apps access to my information.

My main problem with any technology that wants my personal information isn’t that I’m giving away these private details, it’s not knowing where or what my information is being used for. Most of the apps I download don’t really make it clear why they need access to my phone conversations or other areas of my phone, or who is being given this information as well. It’s this lack of transparency which makes it hard to trust a third party with the data that could benefit both them and me. Lack of trust makes it hard to be willing to hand over private information pertaining to yourself. If the third parties that collect our data were more upfront about what it was being used for and who would be able to use my data, I would be a little more willing to hand it over. 


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