Google wants to know where you have coffee, dinner and tequila shots

It’s for your own good. The more Google knows about every little thing you do and every place you go, the better it can serve your needs.

At least that’s the rationale behind the data grabbing that allows the firm to provide personalized service — via everything from its “Assistant” virtual helper to “enhanced search results”  — and to sell ads specifically and lucratively targeted at individual users.

Now, according to a patent Google received Tuesday for “systems and methods for generating a user location history,” the company isn’t satisfied with knowing your location by its GPS or map coordinates. Google wants to know when you’re at home, when you’re at which coffee shop, where you’re eating dinner, and to which bar you go to drink with friends.

“Raw location data can fail to identify a particular entity (e.g. restaurant, park, or other point of interest) that the user was visiting at the time,” said Google’s patent document, from a March 2015 application. “Use of the raw data in furtherance of location-enhanced services can fail to provide any contextual information that would more appropriately personalize the location-enhanced services.”

So, Google wants to know all the “particular location entities” — restaurants, parks, coffee shops –where you’ve set foot.

“A typical day may include morning activities at home, a breakfast at a coffee shop, time spent at work, and then an afternoon happy hour with friends at a restaurant prior to returning home,” the document said.

The fact that a user went to happy hour is not enough. Google must know where, exactly, the cheap drinks and greasy appies were guzzled and gobbled.

Here’s an example of what the patent envisions: “According to the user’s location history, on Sept. 18, 2013 the user was at the user’s home at about 9:30 AM; spent about 20 minutes in the Mission District area; was at the user’s workplace from about 10:30 AM to 8:30 PM; spent about 1 hour in the Visticon Valley area; was at The Whiskey Club bar from about 10:45 PM to 11:15 PM; was at Coffee Shop from about 11:30 PM to 11:45 PM; and then returned home at midnight.”

How, then, would Google figure out which places you visited? By combing through all the other personal data it can collect on you, from emails you’ve sent and received, to photographs you’ve taken, to receipts from mobile-payment purchases you’ve made, to your requests for directions, to the content of your social media posts and, of course, to your search history, according to the patent document.

The document is a little ambiguous on whether a user would have to consent to having the location-identification system collecting their personal information, saying only that a person “may” have to agree to it.

One might ask, ‘What’s in it for the user?’

Plenty, according to Google. Say you forgot the name of the Thai restaurant where you dined last Thursday, a scenario explored in the patent document. By knowing exactly where you were last Thursday night, Google could tell you!

But there’s more: Your location history would let Google serve you “location-enhanced” search results, and improve your use of social media, mapping applications or “other suitable applications.” Aside from the bit about helping you remember where you ate dinner last week, the patent document is a little vague on the actual enhancements.

Now we come to the crown jewel of this system:  the “interactive user interface.” Guaranteed to be revolutionary in terms of our understanding of our own previous movements upon the earth, this geographic chronicle could take the form of a “graphical representation.”

While the system would allow a user to edit, correct and annotate their location history, and supplement entries with uploaded photos and customer reviews, the interface appears to be primarily a means for Google to confirm the locations it has determined you visited, so advertisers can have confidence that when they’re buying targeted advertising, it’s actually on target. As the document says, using a female user as an example, the interface “offers an opportunity for the user to confirm that she did in fact visit Pizza Napoletana at the specified time.”

Not all patented technologies make it to market, but for those of us anxious to give Google as much access to our personal lives as possible, this detailed location history would take us a giant step forward.

And in case you’re concerned that your friends might shy away from allowing Brother Google to penetrate so deeply into their private lives, and that they would thus miss out on the enhancements and the interactive interface, you can go ahead and tell Google where they were.

“Opportunities can be provided,” the document said, “for the user to confirm the presence of one or more additional users that visited the location entity with the user.”


Photo: A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)




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  • Rich B

    Scary stuff from Google, and the tech world in general.

    None of them seem to acknowledge the future they are creating as children are watched as they grow into adults. From birth til death they will be the first generation in history to have almost every movement, conversation and purchase tracked…that is of course, as long as they give in to what technologists are bringing them.

  • math4fun

    I have coffee at home when I get up in the morning, on the road as I drive to work, and at work.

  • SondraL

    And they want your genes, your brain waves, and your thoughts so they have access to control your entire person! But then they know they can count on the massive passivity and lack of critical thinking among the general population! Put it in the form of a game, an app, or a gadget, and they’ve got acquiescence!

  • Google is partnered with DARPA, making human-hunting robots (they work now!). In the near future, when the roundup of “Illegals” begins and they suspect you of hiding a Muslim, a Jew, or even a white ‘Militia’ person in the attic or basement, the robots will come in whether you open the door or not.

  • Easy Ed

    Imagine if this much information had been available to Hitler. Sometimes less is better.

    • Imagine if there’s another Hitler lurking out there, holding massive rallies, huge crowds chanting “deport them” over and over again. *Whew*, thankfully we don’t have anything like that in America.