Screenshot_2013-12-09-16-14-32How far is going too far to get consumers interested in your services? It’s a question Google must have to ask itself repeatedly. Sometimes, as with the Google+ privacy debacle of a couple years back, they get it wrong. And I ran into another possible case of it this morning.

I’ve been trying out the Nexus 7 that my brother got for his 3-year-old daughter to play with. It’s a nice little machine, has Android 4.4 Kit Kat on it, and makes my Nook HD look like my Nook HD made my Zeepad look in terms of speed. I might just have to get me one of those someday. May write more on that later.

Regardless, after playing with it for a while, I got a notification that I had a new “Auto Awesome movie.” Curious, I clicked, and found that Google had gone to the trouble of taking some videos and photos I’d uploaded and mashing them up into its Auto Awesome automatic movie editor. I played around with it for a while, choosing different music and different video filters, and eventually exported a movie, which I uploaded to Facebook and YouTube.

The pictures and videos had come from my Android smartphone camera; it had been backing them up to Google+ automatically, so Google was able to take them, mash them up, and let me work my will on them. In one respect, it was nice of them to do that; Auto Awesome is a feature I would probably never have gotten around to playing with without that prompting.

But on the other hand, just like the sometimes-creepy Google Now, it’s another little reminder of how much information we give Google, and how it can sometimes do unexpected things with it in the name of helping you. Google is the helpful puppy that fetches you not only your slippers but also everything else, including things you’d just as soon it left alone.

Since then, I’ve made a couple of other Auto Awesome movies, though nothing I’d particularly write home about. I even wrote up how to do it for Answers. And Google has proposed a couple more for me. One of them in particular is hilariously random, intercutting video of my parents leading the hymns at their church with pictures of the church, other buildings, my grandmother, and plates of food I had snapped photos of for Foursquare check-ins. If I didn’t know it was completely randomly generated, it would drive me crazy trying to figure out what the theme behind it was.

One more interesting thing: when I uploaded the movie to Facebook, it responded by taking the movie down for a possible copyright violation due to the “Moonlight Sonata” recording it used. Apparently Facebook’s copyright bot thought it sounded to similar to some version of the Sonata that’s under copyright. I had to fill out an appeal form to get it allowed back on-line again.


  1. Interesting read. I myself just discovered a few auto generated “Auto Awesome” movies that Google created for me. I never even knew what they were until I got a notification just now. I had to search and see if other people felt that it was as intrusive as I found it. The auto movie was so realistic that it bordered on scary, and I felt like a stranger had rummaged around through my belongings. I have recently been getting the feeling as though Google has aspirations to gain as much power as possible. With the recent update to YouTube’s comment section and the MANDATORY Google+ integration, I am just not happy with the direction it is trying to push people in. The YouTube update sought to censor comments, remove anonymity, and these auto awesome movies just help to show how greedy Google is with their user’s personal information. Overall, I’m not very pleased.

  2. A different, but related issue. I’ve bought a Nexus 7, and pretty pleased with it. Google keeps wanting to update the Maps application – fine. But looking carefully the Google app wants to have access to my contacts in order to do so. My contacts? For a map application? Mmmmm.

    • @Martin, Google wants to “suggest” locations as you type. At least that’s the obvious reason. With Google, who knows what their other reasons are? I work from home, and Maps is convinced that a Starbucks I rarely visit is my “work” location. Even the information juggernaut gets it wrong sometimes. 😉

  3. It probably wants to tie it in with the Navigate system built into the app. You can tell it to navigate you where you want to go, and it does, just like GPS. When you opt to navigate, you can pick from a list of places you have or are likely to want to go, which could include the addresses of your contacts.

  4. All fine and dandy, but (typically Google) it won’t let me update the app without my letting it in to my contacts…. that is MY contacts, MY personal information. No opt out. I agree with Jay’s phrase – intrusive.

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