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June 4, 2013

Who Knows More About You Than God? (Tuesday Morning Coffee)

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

morning coffee graphicA short time ago, I talked with a man who was concerned that Google knew too much about him.

“I use Google all the time. But I’m getting the feeling that they know everything about me.”

Why did he say such a thing?

Apparently, as he’s gone from website to website, he sees ads for items he’s searched for on Google. As he uses Google to search a particular topic, he notices that the predictive search option shows him some of the search terms he’s used in the past. And when he opens his Nexus 4 and the Google Now program, he sees traffic information for his next appointment and it shows him how long it should take him to get there using very current traffic reports. When he’s expecting a package in the mail, within the Google Now program a card pops up giving him current delivery information, including where his package is at that very moment. And today he noticed his boarding pass for a trip he’s making tomorrow out of Newark.

“That is just way too scary.”

I asked him if the information Google provided helped him at all. “Of course, but for them to have all of this information about me scares me.”

googlenowI thought about it for a short bit — I use Google products for a number of reasons, with the most important reason to me is the ease of use of their productivity suite (calendar, email, maps, Google+). I love Google Now, even on my iPhone (the app is not as robust as the one on Android, but it works well). It is great to check traffic to my appointments. Before I started typing this blog post, I opened up the Google app on my phone to see if the traffic cards popped up for my Tuesday morning appointments. Upon swiping up, I saw that traffic to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Closter was good — should take about 13 minutes to travel from church here in New Milford to Closter, and traffic to Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck was also OK, though there was a slow down, and with these current issues, it should take me 19 minutes to drive from New Milford to Holy Name. Looking at the other Google Now cards in the app, I also saw that my order of “A Simple Way to Pray” books I placed for church should arrive tomorrow and that tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks are playing the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the NHL Western Conference Playoffs (I’ve made some hockey-related searches and Google figured I liked hockey). I also noticed that recently, I’ve had a lot of baseball game related information cards showing up, especially about the Texas Rangers (I had previously searched the “New York Rangers,” so the Google algorithms aren’t perfect). I also noticed that someone I know is having a birthday and I could wish them “Happy Birthday” via the Google+ social network. I also saw a card showing the opening numbers for some of the stocks I own (I use Google Finance to check news and information on these stocks). It also reminded me that later today, I have two afternoon appointments and that our Crafters are meeting at church beginning at 7pm. And there was a card telling me that right outside here in New Milford, at 9:19am, the temperature was 62 degrees and clear.

So, is it scary that Google knows so much about me and my day?

Not really, at least to me.

Since I use Google products, Google just takes my current information and presents it to me in a way to make it all useful. In Google Calendar, I list my appointments with addresses, that then allows Google to tell me what the traffic is like. My searches are compiled by Google and they realized that I like baseball, hockey, and certain stocks. In turn, Google presents me with information on those topics that will make my searches more useful. And yesterday, I received an email informing me that my package containing “A Simple Way to Pray” was on its way, Google used the tracking information in the email and made  it useful for me. Instead of opening my email app and clicking on the specific email and clicking on the link that will open the web browser and the USPS website to see where my package is, Google uses the tracking information and presents the answer in a Google Now card that I get by just opening the app. And the more I use Google products, the more they can take my information and make it useful for me in my everyday life.

For Google, my information helps them with advertising. Whatever I input, they take the information and find ads that directly fit to my lifestyle. For instance, if I search for information on Lutheran Churches, will they then present me with an ad touting a mosque? No. I’ll receive an ad dealing with what I am interested. During the past month, I’ve searched for wireless pedometers. When I go to websites, I see ads for the new Fitbit Flex and Jambone Up bands.  And when I am moved to click on one of the ads, everyone (except me) makes money.

Does this bother me? Not in the least.

The gentleman I spoke with said that even his wife didn’t know as much about him as Google. I said that was probably not true.

“God knows more about you than your wife and Google combined,” I said.

He rolled his eyes, handed me my newspaper, and went on his way to work.


Tonight, our Crafters are meeting for one of the final times before summer break. Class begins tonight at 7pm downstairs in Fellowship Hall at church. All are welcome.


As I whined about yesterday, I actually sat down and completed yesterday’s New York Times crossword. I will continue tackling today’s version at lunch time. And to prove that I finished it yesterday:



And as a gentle nudge – a reminder from yesterday about the Samaritans’ June 12th Dinner service at the Walk-in Kitchen in Hackensack for the homeless and needy:

Part of our caring hands ministries effort here at Saint Matthew’s is the Samaritans. Throughout the year, the Samaritans serve a home-cooked meal of pot roast, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and salad to the needy and homeless at Bergen County’s walk-in kitchen in Hackensack. Each time the Samaritans begin the planning for the meal, there is one area where they’ve never had to worry — desserts.

Whenever they’ve served a meal, the membership here at Saint Matthew’s has stepped up in a huge way to provide home baked cakes, cookies, brownies, and other dessert goodies. Usually 8 to 10 people sign up to graciously bake for this ministry effort.

However, with our June 12 service date staring us in the face, we’re in a little bit of quandary: Only 1 person has signed up to bake. Ouch! As you know, the cost of the rest of the meal is covered. We’ve never had to spend money on dessert.

Therefore, I am asking you Saint Matthew’s members who read this — please consider baking or even buying a dessert for the food service. Let me know by firing off an email to me.

In advance, thank you!

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