What On Google Earth
Updated: Jul 5
Google Gets Even Creepier: An Apology to Nick
Like me, you're probably well acquainted with Google's intrusive creepiness by now, perhaps even blase about it. There was definitely a high tech horror vibe the first time my phone said "Welcome home" as I reached my driveway, and we've all had the experience of saying something casual in passing about, for example, seashells: only to have our feed filled with seashell based ornaments and homewares.
Google also enjoys being racist towards the Scots. Amongst my friends and family my arguments with Google are well documented. It resolutely refuses to learn the Scottish accent, and I resolutely refuse to Americanise myself for its convenience. The video below is Alexa, but it's SSDD (same shit different device) for me.
Perhaps my peak Google moment was the day I placed my work iPhone and my personal Android next to one another, and the two of them starting replying to one another, instead of to me. Shades of Hal indeed.
But lately, Google intrusiveness has reached a whole new level in my life.
I loathe using mobile phone keyboards. I learned to touch-type in days of yore and I type like the wind on any decent keyboard. Awkwardly bumping a small, flat screen at snail's pace with unwieldy fingertips drives me up the wall, and I'm not known for my patience with ill-designed tech at the best of times. So, despite the hilarious and sometimes horrifying fails which regularly ensue with talk-to-text, I do still use it.
Which is where Nick comes in.
What On Google Earth?
One person I regularly text is my husband, Mick. To my deep concern, my phone has taken it into its electronic head to occasionally text Nick instead.
I don't know any Nicks. And until Google added his number to my contacts, there were no Nicks on my phone.
Fortunately, my texts to Nick have been fairly nondescript. The first time, when Mick wasn't forthcoming I checked and realised I'd texted a stranger. Also fortunately, Nick has a sense of humour.
It's a good thing that when sending racier messages I always double-check I'm texting Mick, or Nick might have been either repulsed or rejoicing, depending on whether he likes chubby chicks with a penchant for tarty underwear.
But what was troubling me was that the name appearing alongside the reply seemed really familiar. Google gave me his last name too, which I won't share here. I mused for a while, and then it came to me. Nick is the name of one of my husband's workmates. Mick had been telling me about what happened to his boat just recently because he didn't have a bilge pump during the recent the floods (it sunk).
I decided to check through my contacts.
Consulting with Mick over my contact list, I found a bunch of names I didn't recognise and realised that Google had added approximately a dozen of Mick's contacts to my phone. How do I know I didn't do this? I have never met any of these people. And this is the kicker - Mick works for the government. And some of these numbers were for fairly high ranking government employees.
My husband and I had a confused laugh about it over dinner. We decided not to say anything to Nick as it just looks really strange. I deleted all those contacts from my phone.
And then the other day, using talk to text again, this happened:
Upon checking, I found that Google had reinstalled Nick and four other contacts to my list - again two of them reasonably high ranking government employees. Let me clear about this GOOGLE added them to my phone. NOT ME.
Now, Mick and I are both really open about our online presence with one another. Although I don't use his tablet or phone, I could if I wanted to, and he mine, we share a couple of email accounts and we're not in the "I just need to keep everything super secretive darling, honestly I'm not doing anything untoward when I text in the other room, trust me!" group. We know or could easily guess one another's passwords, and Google undoubtedly knows that we are married.
But we definitively DO NOT use one another's phones to call anyone. And I definitely have never tried to access Mick's phone numbers or texts or anything like that from my phone.
Because I no longer have Fakebook, I've logged on to Mick's account - with his full knowledge and permission - once or twice to check out marketplace and on one occasion to search for an old friend. Mick has not given Fakebook access to his contact list, who in their right mind would? Could it be that Google then decided since Mick was logging on to Fakebook it was fine to download his numbers to a phone he wasn't registered to?
These numbers have no place on my phone. Why is Google transferring access to phone numbers from my husband's contact list to mine? Contacts on MY contact list, not Mick's? Phone numbers I do not use, at least not voluntarily. Why is it giving me access to people I haven't met, don't know and have NEVER CALLED?
If anyone has any idea of how to stop this happening, I'd love to hear it. Please don't suggest contacting Google. I mean, really, I only have one life and I'd prefer not to die of apoplectic rage during a four hour conversation with a bot who despises humanity.
I removed all the numbers from my phone again. And yet this morning when I tried to talk to text Mick again, Google once again tried to text Nick.
But I was onto their shenanigans this time, I double-check the names every time these days, and caught it before it went out.
Just as well, or Nick would have been happy to know his strange stalker had progressed to saying "Have a great day, I love you baby xxx".
Which would probably be a bit awkward for everyone.
Alison Tennent, Queensland, Australia, June 2021
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but The Garrulous Glaswegian, Vocal+ or Medium, this work may have been plagiarized.