Back around the time I was born, my dad’s mom was a nurse, and she worked with a certain nun.
Now, in my family, the truth is always a bit twisted and shaped, so there’s a lot of rumor about the place of this nun in my family’s life, but at least one of these stories is that my middle name was after her to appease my grandmother. But then, my middle name is one of the most common female middle names you could find, so who knows.
What is sure, is that she was close friends with my grandmother while they both lived in that town, and that for my first birthday, the nun and/or all of the nuns gave me a stuffed dog.
I still have that stuffed dog to this day. It became the security animal that I carried everywhere.
So, years back, maybe a decade or so… There was an event that was being held at a Catholic retreat center in town. I ended up on their website and I noticed on their staff page that they listed this nun.
So, some years later, after my grandma died, I ran a search for the retreat center to find the page again, and I sent the nun a couple of emails.
I don’t really know what I was expecting. I’m thinking I may have even written about it here at the time. But in any case, the nun and I exchanged about two really short casual emails in about 2011 or so.
There’s been no other connection between this nun and I. At all.
Enter today… And Google Now.
Google now is an app on Android phones that comes up frequently, as it’s trigger is sliding up from the bottom of the screen, so it’s easy to do accidentally.
It’s Google’s idea of a personal assistant… But it’s honestly creepy. It tracks where you go, finds patterns, and is scary with how accurate it can be on offering you driving directions and times.
It literally learned the small group location and time for when my daughter babysits in just two weeks, and offered me the best route on the right day at the right time the third week.
It’s sometimes also crazy on what it pulls up on articles that it offers based on what it thinks I want to see. I was researching different litter box types, it offers me articles about litter types and shelters offering kittens the next time I open it. That sort of thing.
So today I open it, accidentally. And the first thing on the page is the nun’s obituary.
Google now has never given me an obituary before.
And yes, it was kind of nice. Not that it matters much, but our family likely wouldn’t have known for a long time otherwise, and one aunt in particular was glad that I let her know.
But the more I think about this, the more creepy it becomes.
Because, obviously, the obit didn’t list the nun’s email address, and her email was with the church, not with Gmail.
But somehow Google knew that this obit, just published today in a metro area of a half million people… Was the one that belonged to the nun’s email address.
And was sure enough about it to show the announcement to contacts that she’d only emailed twice about 5 or 6 years ago.
It’s impressive, I can’t deny that. And useful.
But that still makes it no less creepy to realize the power it holds is capable of connecting real life to virtual, even when it isn’t someone using Gmail to give them access to all of their mail.
It’s not like I expect privacy, or even that this is the first time they have creeped me out.
But still… This is just a different level somehow.
You all read my blog. Google knows that, I’m sure. From my Gmail, Google knows all about me as far as the names I used on things like hotel reservations. It also knows where I drive, and my online habits from my phone. It’s entirely possible that if something were to happen, and my obit were published, that Google might be the one to tell you about it.. without my family even knowing this blog exists.
Let’s face it… Google might even know from the end of phone traffic even before the obit was printed.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.