I’ve known for a long time they were monitoring my emails.
It started a few years back when my sister and I were exchanging updates on our ongoing projects. She sent me a picture of a blanket she knitted for her grandson.
There, on the side of the screen next to her note, was an ad for a yarn company.
I dismissed it, thinking it was coincidence. After all, when I signed up for Gmail, it’s possible I filled out an interest survey. I didn’t remember filling out a survey, but hey. It’s possible. No need to get paranoid over it.
Then my sister emailed with the idea of visiting a local winery together. Next to her note were two ads for wine. One of them was for the winery.
Either my sister was a marketing genius, or someone at Google was reading our emails. Why they wanted to read the emails of two middle-aged sisters in Arizona, I’ve no idea.
Maybe they thought we were terrorists?
I’d be lying if I said this didn’t bother me. Any time I see ads deliberately tailored to me, it’s a bit unnerving. But after a while, as these things go, I became desensitized.
So the book I just looked at on Amazon is now displayed on my email page. And Twitter. And Facebook. Big whoop. *scrollsforcatvideos*
Until yesterday, that is.
Husband is traveling, so he sent me an email. I read it on my tablet, as I am wont to do.
It was a lovely email. Unusually long, for him, filled with details of his trip and how much he really, really, really misses me. *blush*
I get to the end and there are three blue boxes. Each of the boxes contained a response, such as “I miss you too” and “Glad you arrived safely.”
I’d never seen them before, and they seemed just a little too close to appropriate responses. There was only one possible answer.
Someone was reading my emails!
What’s more, this interloper, this Covert Gmail Spy, obviously didn’t trust my ability to write an effective response! Apparently, he thought I was stymied.
Well, I showed him! I wrote a heartfelt reply. Full of angst and pathos and a review of the book I just finished — Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.
Great read, by the way. You should check it out.
Where was I? Oh yeah. I showed Covert Gmail Spy a thing or two! You think you can tell me how to email? Ha! We don’t need your responses!
We don’t need your stinkin’ boxes!
Then this morning, I got another email from Husband. Again, there were three boxes.
This time I thought to take a screen shot:
So I did some research.
It’s called Smart Reply for Gmail. It’s an app that’s been around since 2015, but was automatic in the most recent Gmail update for iOS and Android. So maybe you have it too?
According to what I read, Google’s “machine intelligence” (aka, Covert Gmail Spy) previews your email and picks three likely responses. You can either select the responses and send them immediately from the spy app, or use them as a start off for a customized message.
The app is billed as a Time-Saver, and not, as I call it, a Spy-Device.
There are some out there who will try to tell you this is a good thing.
Smart Reply is all about saving you time and letting you dispatch boring email replies without too much effort.
Even better, it learns over time. So if Google notices you use a lot of exclamation points in your replies, you can expect to see that mirrored in the Smart Replies offered up. If you consistently don’t choose one of the options, Google will come up with some better ones for you.
Interesting. If I continue to not choose the boxes, Google will come up with better ones.
I’m intrigued. There may be a way to beat Covert Gmail Spy at his own game.
What if we step up the quality of our emails? Bring them to a whole other level? Turn them into groundbreaking essays, riveting prose, heart-wrenching poetry…
Oh my gosh, people! Imagine the trembling hands of Covert Gmail Spy as he sets out to find an appropriate, three to five word response to our tomes!
The quest is before us! Rise up all you who denounce email surveillance! Shake off your vapid responses and stock replies. Now is the time to pontificate, belabor, and rehash every story you ever wanted to tell, with the best vocabulary you can muster!
Let it now be said: This shall be called the Golden Age of Email.
Take that, Covert Gmail Spy! 🕵