I take as a given that whatever data I share online will circulate among companies, partners, services, and other entities who take my privacy very seriously, but I’ve also come to expect that that happen in a discreet way that doesn’t make me aware of the fact. Well, that’s not always the case, apparently…
While texting someone a few days ago (June 11), I got this suggestion on my keyboard.
I typed “…leave the conference”.
I’m pretty sure I had not typed the phrase “leave the euro” before on my phone, so I don’t think the prediction was based on my typing patterns. However, I had allowed the keyboard app to parse text from a couple of personal online accounts — one was Gmail and the other one was Evernote, where I had saved a few articles about the euro crisis. So it’s possible that the prediction was based on text contained there.
In any case, I got curious about how the app made that prediction, so I started playing around: for a few days I would type the same text now and then, just to see what the suggestions would be. At first, I would get suggestions like the one below — the keyboard app predicted I wanted to type what I actually typed that first time.
Then on June 15, things got more interesting.
“Leave the… 60”? That didn’t make sense immediately, so I followed the keyboard’s suggestions to complete the sentence. Here is what I got.
As you might imagine, I was surprised and a little shocked that my smart keyboard would think I meant to say such a thing. I searched for the phrase on Google.
The predicted phrase appeared verbatim in the book you see above. Why would the keyboard predict that phrase? Here are a three clues that I think are relevant: First, I had bought that book on May 30th and added it on that same day on my Goodreads account. Second, I use Facebook to sign in Goodreads. Third, I also use Facebook to sign in the keyboard app. So, my guess is that using Facebook for login allowed the keyboard to match me with that book… Or something of that sort. Well, at least it didn’t give away any spoilers.