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Yahoo’s “Index” digital assistant sounds kind of creepy

by Jacob Kleinman | April 24, 2015April 24, 2015 12:00 pm PST


Yahoo is gearing up to offer its own digital assistant app, but new details have us worried it could be a privacy nightmare. According to Business Insider, the company plans to analyze your entire Yahoo history in an effort to offer personalized notifications and improved search results.

The app, which is apparently code-named Index, will compete directly with Google Now, Siri and Cortana. Yahoo’s main advantage over those rival services may be its long history with people who’ve been using its email and services for decades.

“Gmail users have only had their accounts for 10 years,” an anonymous insider told BI. “Yahoo has many 20 year old accounts. Back then people used to email themselves a lot — store things. To surface that kind of data usefully is exciting.”

In one example, Index could scan your Yahoo email for references to a sports team and then automatically surface updates on that team for you. The app could also help refine search. So if you search for “JFK” the company will know whether you mean the president or the New York airport based on your recent emails.

It sounds a little invasive, though hopefully Yahoo will let you fine tune what Index can see, similar to how Microsoft’s Cortana works. Then again, it may end up more like Google Now, which pretty much helps itself to all your personal data in the name of smarter recommendations. We’re not sure we trust Yahoo with all that information, though for now we’ll just have to wait and see which way the company leans.


Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...