While not quite magic for those who understand how it works, Google Now can be both impressive and spooky.
On mobile devices (Android and iOS) Google Now and its ‘Card’ notifications often pop up at the most opportune times, offering advice about things that haven’t yet happened in a user’s life – but are about to.
It’s not unusual for Google Cards to let you know how long it will take you to get home – from a restaurant you haven’t quite arrived at yet. And it can also advise what the weather will be like tomorrow, in a place that more often that not you’ve planned to visit only in your head.
Google can’t read people’s minds but it does harvest data from Google accounts in order to provide its Now services. That includes your search and location history, sites you’ve visited and the content of Gmail messages. It can also access your phone contacts, calendar entries and even certain apps.
“To know when to display cards and reminders, Google Now uses information from your device and from other Google products,” the company explains.
But while Google Now does some predictable things, like offering news about a favorite sporting event or offering appropriate stock listings, it can also serve up the odd surprise. One of those landed on the phone of TorrentFreak reader Ryan Raab this past weekend.
While using his Nexus 6 (loaded with the latest Android N beta), Ryan received a serving of Google Cards. After Google noticed he’d “shown an interest” in Olivia Munn, he was advised of her upcoming role in the X-Men Apocalypse movie as documented by Engadget. Nice.
But it was his interest in the movie Deadpool that delivered the surprise. Sandwiched between a Guardian article about Barack Obama and a New York Post piece about Donald Trump, Google Now advised Ryan where he could watch the hit movie. (Hint: Not in a theater)
As can be seen from the screenshot, Ryan’s interest in Deadpool resulted in a Google Card being presented to him referencing one of the world’s largest torrent sites, 1337x. Indeed, clicking on the Card landed Ryan on the site in question, as shown below.
Obviously there isn’t a team at Google hand-crafting Google Cards designed to promote unauthorized torrents. However, this does appear to show that Google’s algorithms are smart enough to put together interesting advice based on multiple and diverse information sources.
TorrentFreak sent Ryan’s findings to Google for comment but at the time of publication we were yet to hear back. However, it does appear that in this instance simply having an interest in both torrents and a particular movie was enough to trigger a custom Card linking to a pirate site.
While a feature like this won’t annoy too many torrent fans, they may change their tune when more sensitive information is picked up by Google in future editions.
“You showed an interest in ‘having an affair’ – here’s a link to AdulteryX4u.com.”