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It’s no longer a secret that Google is scanning users’ Gmail accounts to send better and more focused ads. What is new is a feature being rolled out by the company that is said to look for “bills details” in your inbox.

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Just days ago, the world’s top search engine, Google, announced in a Google Plus page that its Google Search mobile app (available for Android- and iOS-powered devices) will remind users when they need to pay their bills by simply repeating a few words into the phone or tablet’s microphone.

Google explained some details about the new feature in a statement, clarifying how the app will show upcoming bills and a summary of past ones:

“When you can’t remember whether you’ve paid your bills — or you simply can’t remember how much money you need to pay — you can now just ask Google.

Tap the mic on the Google app and say, ‘Show me my bills’ or ‘My bills due this week.’ If you have the payment due date and amount in your Gmail, you’ll see a quick summary of upcoming and past bills. Pretty handy, huh?”

The new feature is an extension of  Google Now, which is a personal assistant technology that acts as a virtual butler. It can offer practical information to you before asking for it, like how far you’ve walked today or what places to see on an upcoming holiday depending on information Google gets via different related platforms.

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Venture Beat reported:

“This is a great addition for anyone who wants to quickly check whether they’ve paid their bills or just needs to determine the exact amount they owe. In case you weren’t getting your bills sent to your inbox, this is naturally an incentive to sign up for email notifications with your Gmail account, which is of course exactly what Google wants.”

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To activate the feature, you need to give Google permission to access the information in your Gmail account. Google already scans users’ email accounts for flight information, hotel reservations and packages that may be delivered soon from online order confirmations.

How it Works:

1. Google will scan your Gmail for bills (without asking you)

2. You should tap on the mic icon in the search bar within the Google Search app (Google Now).

3. Tell Google “show me my bills,” or “my bills due this week”.

4. You’ll get cards based on your e-mailed bills.

What about Privacy?

The idea of Google getting more information more than likely unnerves some users and privacy advocates, especially after the already implemented automated system that scans emails to send more focused advertisements.

Google claims however that the information will be private and can only be seen or accessed by the user.

Justin Brookman, Director of Consumer Privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C. stated:

“Google has so much information about us it can be kind of surprising when they release new things, it’s just a new way to expose information Google already knows about you in order to make your life more seamless.”

Despite these stances, the new feature certainly does further justify concerns in regards to how much personal data Google seems to be collecting about its users these days. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the users who’ve downloaded the Google Search app must opt-in to the latest service.

 

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“When the service shows a bill with the amount due (or an airline reservation or anything else scraped from the user’s own Gmail account) at the top of a list of search results, it says ‘Only you can see this result’ to let users know that the rest of the world cannot see how much they owe Comcast this month.”

What are your thoughts on the new feature? Do you still trust Google, or do you believe there is legitimate reason for concern? Let us know via the comment section below.

Sources:

(1) Google

(2) The Wall Street Journal

(3) Google mobile app can now surface your past and upcoming bills from your Gmail account


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