This month, Google has announced not one, but two exciting updates to both its encryption program and search algorithm.
The encryption update followed reports regarding the National Security Agency’s collaborations with tech companies to weaken encryption on their data. This weakening would then allow the agency to spy on user data and communication, something that obviously upsets the national public.
Google has denied any involvement with the NSA and their PRISM Program, which is intended to combat terrorism by allowing US officials access to online data and information thought useful in an investigation. To further disprove involvement with the intelligence agency, Google has also teamed up with Microsoft to sue the NSA for permission to share information about their full relationship.
The new encryption initiative was actually approved last year, but has recently received more attention after the news of the NSA’s policies to prevent encryption. While the NSA’s work will certainly challenge Google’s encryption efforts, the company is sticking to its “Do No Harm” motto by trying to provide users with as much personal privacy and security as possible.
In addition to renovating their encryption program, Google has also updated its search algorithm, now called “Hummingbird.” This is the biggest change to the company’s algorithm since it upgraded to “Caffeine” in 2010. Hummingbird effects 90% of searches and has been successfully in place for a month. The algorithm is meant to make it easier to search for longer, more advanced queries in addition to the usual keyword-based questions. With the update, users are able to search as if they were asking their friends a question in real life rather than searching online. For example, a user will be able to search “Tell me about Ford’s newest models” and receive the information they are looking for, rather than having to search “Ford.”
Google is also allowing for more advanced voice searches. Now, users can compare two items, create a list of songs from a specific artist, or pull statistics about pretty much anything and receive a voice response from Google. Even more exciting, in a series of questions about the same topic, the main keyword only needs to be mentioned in one question for Google to remember the context of the searches.
This new algorithm change is a part of Google’s goal to make search easier overall. Amit Singhal, senior vice president at Google, said of the update, “you should not be spending your time searching, you should be spending your time living.”