When someone told me about renowned chef Alton Brown’s Twitter account I was convinced that he was brilliant. In response to tweets that he receives he takes a picture of a handwritten post-it note and tweets only the picture link. As it turns out, rather than for the purpose of privacy Brown does it as an eccentricity (he has over 300,000 followers so privacy isn’t a concern) – yet it occurred to me how much more additional intelligence would have to be built into Twitter to index or glean any context from his “post-it” tweets. It seems Brown found a pretty great way to avoid being targeted by marketers and wayward social networks trying to cash in on your information. Or so I thought….
— Alton Brown (@altonbrown) July 25, 2012
The privacy myth was thwarted a bit by Google announcing that they were rolling out a product called “Handwriting” which allows mobile users to handwrite queries to inform a Google search. I gave it a test drive via Google Chrome for iOS and it is really impressive. I was using my finger, but I imagine would be even more accurate if I were using a stylus. For something Google labels as “experimental” it is a surprisingly intuitive and (I found) accurate tool. I should mention that it only works from the Google landing page. Subsequent searches on other pages don’t share the same functionality. And it needs to be enabled and a link showing you how is below.
I’m not saying the technology to read handwriting will become widespread. But Google reacted to a feature purportedly from Microsoft’s Windows 8 – so one figures that Twitter, Facebook and other services will find a way to harness it to collect data. But until that happens, communicating in social networks without decipherable text (like Alton Brown does in his post-it pictures) may be a way to maintain a level of anonymity from marketers that no privacy setting can offer.
It should be mentioned that Google Handwrite is not available on the Google app, only on Google’s webpage accessed through your device’s web browser. A detailed article on how to enable it can be found here.