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Google’s Auto Awesome Year in Review Crossed the Creepy Line for Some



Google’s Auto Awesome feature for photos is certainly one that grabs your attention. Originally launched as an online feature that would improve your photo experiences, Google introduced a few holiday themed features that offered some fun eye candy. One of those brought animated fall snow to any picture that contained snow in it. (Click on the picture below to see that happen.) The second added an animated twinkling to any picture with Christmas lights. All well and good, and certainly a neat way of promoting the feature as Google wants you to use its online photo services to store your photos. It is certainly a fun enticement.

IMG_0718-SNOWGoogle also introduced a year end Auto Awesome feature that picked a group of your photos and videos from the past year that you had uploaded to its serves, put them into a video montage accompanied by music and presented it to you with that music playing in the background. Think of it as your personal year in review. By the way Facebook did a similar thing with your photos on its service. Google calls this Auto Awesome story telling.

Honestly, I didn’t think much of this beyond the fact that it was something neat. But in showing the video Google compiled about my 2013 to lots of friends and family over the last several days I apparently was in a distinct minority.  The reactions varied from the “how do they do that?” to “that’s just too creepy” all tinged with at least some negative vibes associated with them. At least one family member requested I not include them in any pictures going forward with Google or Facebook. He’s one of those young adults who is concerned about these kind of things being around when he goes job hunting.

We talk about the “creepy line” when technology veers too far into the personal. Usually that’s referencing things like context aware services or location services that seem to know who we are and where we are. I can say that with the 20 or so folks I shared this Google Auto Awesome with, all thought this was a Google Auto Awesome step too far.

What do you think? Did Google or Facebook compile your year for you and present it in a tidy package? Do you think this is a good thing or not? Here’s another question, did they catch the right memories for the year? Or, as in my case, did they miss some that I thought should be included? But then, that’s those algorithms don’t always know what’s in your heart, now do they?




  1. Gary Criswell

    12/27/2013 at 5:54 am

    Thought it was pretty neat. All the pictures/videos it added were already shared so I had no issue with what they picked. Of course it couldn’t pick everything but overall it was pretty good.

    • Mike

      12/30/2013 at 12:52 pm

      None of my pictures they used where shared or made public.

  2. Neil

    12/27/2013 at 3:22 pm

    I have all that “auto awesome” stuff turned off anyway, but I personally would not like an “algorithm generated” year review like that.. makes me cringe, to say the least! It just help them compile a tighter package on you to sell to advertisers. When I look at stuff i want to see it ALL , not what some algorithm has “sanitised” ( sorry “personalised”!) just for me… sigh..
    Another invisible gate-keeper censoring what I see & trying to affect what I think.. most people sleepwalk their way through life without noticing the blinkers, or the iron bars that contain them
    /me climbs down off soap box :)

  3. Topher

    12/27/2013 at 11:23 pm

    Nothing included in my G+ year in review wasn’t already publicly shared. I have not seen this feature through Facebook. Also interesting – my G+ year in review couldn’t be shared on Facebook – the share button only added my “comment” about the clip to my feed/profile; no video clip was attached.

    Competition is getting serious here, gotta say I use G+ more than FB anyway.

  4. Barbara

    12/28/2013 at 3:52 am

    I was initially taken aback at the Auto-Awesome video, but given the limited number of pictures it had to go on – I take very few on my phone and don’t share much – the result was actually charming.

    I won’t be sharing it though. That’s because it IS quite creepy – it’s as if some acquaintance had gone through your photos and put together a slide show, and then expected you to be delighted about that. It seems another step in shaking loose the notion that the images you captured are actually yours, rather than “content” for Google to use. The next step would be an auto-share, I imagine.

  5. westley

    12/28/2013 at 9:24 am

    I was thrilled about the video it made me. 90% of my pictures are of my kids and family and everybody I showed it to thought it was professionally made. The only glitch was there was one photo of someone I would have preferred to not have in the video. I could have edited it when it first showed me the video but I pressed the wrong button and can’t get back in to edit it. I do take some photos around work and I wouldn’t want those photos in there.
    The algorithms seem to look for groups if photos and videos taken around holiday times and weekends. Likely with a preference for photos including smiles and in differing locations for randomness.
    What makes it creepy again?

  6. Amber

    12/28/2013 at 12:32 pm

    up to I looked at the draft that said $9177, I didnt believe that my cousin woz really making money in there spare time on their apple labtop.. there best friend has done this 4 only about 1 year and as of now repayed the loans on their home and purchased a brand new McLaren F1. website here……..

  7. Jeff Yablon

    01/04/2014 at 6:08 am

    I’m good with the year-end thing. GOOG didn’t share anything that wasn’t already shared and didn’t seem to “know” much, as evidenced by what a bad job the year-end video did making anything resembling a ‘picture of my life’.

    OTOH, when this happened ( … yikes. They know too much, and the speed with which they apply that knowledge is frightening!

  8. Sonja

    01/09/2014 at 11:42 am

    I’m sooo confused why this would even be remotely creepy! If they had published it, fine, yes, creepy. If they’d used photos or videos of things you didn’t actually record yourself, creepy. But as it is, it’s just a tool on your phone, taking photos and videos that are on your phone that you already took, and compiling it together into something that may or may not be appealing to you to keep. It’s not much different than the filters in your photo apps, only this is way cooler.

    There are creepy technologies out there, but this isn’t one of them.

  9. Dinesh Keerthy

    06/10/2014 at 4:17 am

    It’s not creepy – it’s actually a great idea to make sense of the hundreds of photos we take and forget about. It could use some tweaks though. Combining the videos with photos is very cool. Making motion out of still photos is pointless. Only the best ones need to be picked.

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