The days of losing our emails or documents because we forgot to save our work are almost over. Software such as Word or services like Gmail, auto save your work at regular intervals so that in the event your computer crashes or your connection is lost, you’ll still have a draft somewhere. There is no doubt, the auto save feature is extremely helpful.
An email message can go through quite a number of iterations before it is sent. What can we learn about a person based on how they come to a final version of an email? And what can we learn about the relationship between the person sending the email and the person receiving the email? I think there is just as much information in what we choose NOT to share as there is in what we choose to share. Facebook appears to agree. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2013/12/facebook_self_censorship_what_happens_to_the_posts_you_don_t_publish.html
Facebook keeps the information that you choose to share and the information that you don’t choose to share. That’s an immense amount of data. If correlated and analyzed properly, it could shed light on quite a bit about our minds and personalities.
Very few of us are free from conflicting thoughts and emotions. We are not single minded, rather, we are all a collection of desires and beliefs that are sometimes at odds with each other. For example, the internal debate you might have over picking junk food vs health food for dinner. Using two chess players as an analogy, the mind plays against itself at times. As with chess, and many other games, you can learn a lot about the players based on how they play.
Some of these intellectual battles come to the surface when we communicate with other people. They happen almost too quickly to be analyzed when we are talking. Except in cases of parapraxis, Freudian slips. Writing an email is a much slower process. And there is a physical record of changes made to the communicated message. The folks over at Google, owners of Gmail, are experts at collecting data and analyzing it. They’re sitting on a treasure trove of information about the human condition. I’m hopeful that it will be shared and used to help in areas such as anti terrorism and mental health.
It is actually quite an interesting thought to think that we discard our draft messages so easily but that they contain a wealth of information for some, the saying of ‘one mans trash is another mans treasure’ certainly applies here. The great pity is that the information collected by companies like Facebook and Google will most likely be used to better target us for products that we are most likely to buy. Information that could help to us better understand ourselves is sacrificed in the name of profit. A very interesting post.
That’s a little on the cynical side. Sure, they may be using data to profit themselves, but I’m sure that eventually articles will begin to appear that could give us a little insight into what they have gleaned from that data. In many ways, it’s still better to have that data collected than not.
Agreed it’s quite a cynical view of the subject.
Exactly, I think we can all benefit from the results and interpretation of that data.
Also the service that google provides us has to be paid somehow, I don’t think most people would want to give google money so we give them data instead!
I don’t understand how big companies mining any data about is seen as good. This is just a foot in the door to collect even more vital data on us and possibly invade our privacy. Google is making quite a lot as it is, data-mining is just a way to exceed normal profit earnings.
But what if your draft messages are rejected solely on punctuation, grammar and spelling? If that’s the case, what would someone else actually learn from it? Other than the fact that your first draft was a somewhat careless one, if nothing else changed in the post from first draft to finished copy… it seems to me that not much would actually be gleaned as valuable input.
Knowledge is power – data brings knowledge – that power is probably used at the moment for profit.
It would make an interesting study to see what keywords are used and not used within certain relationships: friendships, family, partners.
It’s hard to see what benefit it could bring but maybe that’ll be obvious once such data is summarised.
I’m sure one pattern would emerge which could hint the true feelings of someone towards someone else, maybe you fancy someone and wonder if they fancy you, using 5 of their messages towards you would maybe show a percentage of their different feelings for you….plucking random thoughts from the sky now!
Unfortunately, it won’t be shared. Tech giants like Google and Facebook obtain the data, true, but they use it only to garner a nifty profit for themselves. That’s how the world works.
On the other hand, sharing the draft data (which often contains private information) callously would lead to some pretty serious consequences. So I think that their actions of keeping data to themselves (they themselves shouldn’t do that, Imho, but well, they do, and we can’t do anything about it.) is kinda justified.
I would not want the information from my email made public either way. I already feel like my personal conversations are no longer personal simple because a computer scans them for marketing. I do turn off permissions to use my personal information for markets but I know it is still used.
Well I guess that is a little bit better, but still pretty alarming to think about. I just hope for a day when there is no information being obtained or shared or stored, but I am pretty sure that that ship has long since sailed, probably about thirty years ago. It is interesting to think about, though, no matter how grim the implications may be. Maybe this is just my cynicism coming out again. Anyways, thanks for sharing.
I just feel that it is not wrong to say that we are definitely in a society that is social experimenting on us. It is quite funny when you think about t that most of these sites are doing all of this within the confines of legality. I do not remember ever agreeing to any of this, but in some way shape or form we have agreed that they can take our own data and control what we see as a result of that information.
Actually, you did indeed agree and sign up for this. Remember the Terms & Conditions that everyone just skips over? Well, it says it right in there that they can do certain things with and to our data as long as it stays within legal bounds. Ads work the same way. You have given the companies permission in one way or another to target you with certain ads based on your searched items, e-mails, etc.
What I like about auto save drafts is, It serves as my to do list or a reminder.
Yeah, I occasionally use it as a to do list as well, although notes on Android has taken over that role. Still, the article’s premise is pretty true here too. Google knows what you’re going to do later now, and will probably use it to market products to you. Slightly scary!
When is collecting data a violation of the users privacy? I don’t want to have the drafts of my email or my emails used for markets at all. I love the use of auto save so I don’t lose what I am working on if say my kids turn off my computer while I am steps away, however if auto save is going to be used to collect my personal data I would rather not use it at all. In this day and age the only way to keep anything to yourself is to not have it digital at all. The sad part is I can’t call my mom or send her and email without thinks how many people are in on this conversation that where not invited.
Yes I am one that enjoys this feature due to my forgetfulness…and don’t forget getting caught-up in the moment. I am a writer and sometimes I can get carried away with my thoughts and the time just gets away. This auto-save feature can help me with my forgetting to save. I remember numerous of times I have had to start over because the computer froze and the only thing left to do was shut the whole thing down…how upsetting that was. This feature has even been included in photo processing software like Photoshop CS6, which I use all the time….this feature has totally saved me plenty of times.
Sure, all the technology that has been developed was done to our convenience (and therefore we use it, many times whether we like it or not), but also due to the convenience of the companies creating it. Gathering information is gathering power and we are being watched whenever we are using technology.
Every bit of Data that you input is saved and sent to their servers for processing. Your typing styles, your accuracy, the words you type most, the color references in your text and all of the other details is worth billions to these Tech giants. They even take permission from your end to store data that you input in exchange for using their services. This is crucial in making business moves. The data they receive is literally worth predicting the next thing. People are concerned giving companies the Data they don’t want them to have, but everytime you use the keyboard on your device, a bit of the information they need is transmitted without your Permission. Microsoft has actually built the free Windows 10 Platform in a manner allowing it to remotely control every Windows Device, track every moment you spend with it and is capable of fully wiping your computer and all its Data without you even noticing. I don’t know what they are up to, but they are starting to creep out people with Privacy Issues.
sharatharadhya, I really liked using Windows 10, and was thrilled that it was a free upgrade, but given the continuing privacy concerns, I decided to move over to Linux for most things. Now, when I have to go back to Windows, I find that I don’t like it so much after-all. I’m a Linux fan-girl now 🙂
@sheebah7, I also use drawing software quite a lot as I am an artist, and yes the auto save feature has come in handy many times, we have a lot of blackouts where I live so yeah. Now what I actually want to point out is this, just imagine the ‘corportocracy’ as I call all the big companies used the auto saves from our art as well, I’m sure those who study the human psyche could figure out a great number of things if they could not only study our way of vocalizing through text, but also look at how we approach creating visual stimuli. They would almost have both sides of the brain, both reason and creativity.
Sandman, the art comment really stood out to me. I agree.
That is a very interesting though @SandmanZA. There is probably a wealth of information contained in art that they could gather about us individually. It would possibly change the direction of their marketing from that standpoint, as well as the choices they make for aesthetic purposes as you mentioned about visual stimuli.
I also didn’t really think about what @sheeba7 mentioned as a writer. Not just our personal thoughts but as well what we write in our stories that we can imagine.
While I find it really interesting that by gathering the information from auto-saves while you write a comment or really any kind of input to a discussion you can extrapolate the thinking patterns of the subject and how he/she approaches a given subject, I would simply say to those not in favor that if you don’t want that to be done to you, just don’t use those platforms. You’re free not to use them and if you’re that concerned about drafts that you yourself erased and didn’t want to submit to be saved in some database somewhere for a bunch of psychologists to look at and study, you should just refrain from using them. Nothing is making you do it and it’s not like the information is being forced out of you. There are always work-arounds and solutions for those kinds of problems. I, for one, would love to read something that was extrapolated from those kinds of drafts to see what conclusions people studying them arrived at.
This is one of the reasons I tend not to save very many drafts, or even the “sent” outbox. I don’t plan on having my information stolen anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Most of my emails are inconsequential anyways, however, that doesn’t mean some of the information in that message may not hurt me, or the person I was sending it to/sent it from.
It probably won’t help much – odds are your recipient won’t delete the mail either, and even more likely is that the draft you deleted isn’t really deleted, just flagged as deleted by google, but they datamine it anyway before throwing it away. It’s basically google’s business model now.
I’m not comfortable with this. Sure, I know that when I use a ‘free’ email platform, the messages that I write and send will be analyzed, but the thoughts and information that I decided to change or delete, shouldn’t be up for grabs at all. Anything that I haven’t explicitly sent should be private.
I’m curious as to your thoughts on the ultimate future of free email platforms. A lot of people in my life – myself included – have dumped them for important communication and moved to paid platforms where we’re the customer and not the product. Do you think we will reach a point where a majority of people decide that the downsides of ‘free’ email are just not worth it anymore, or are people now, too used to living in a highly surveilled society to care?
I agree with you. I think all discarded text should be private, just as our personal thoughts are private until we make them known. If we don’t actually make our text known to the world, it should remain private.
Services such as Facebook or Gmail have gathered so much information that they could possibly manipulate people or even keep Top Secret issues that can contribute to society. It has its positives and negatives. It may be unacceptable to some who would prefer confidentiality and are content with the Terms and Conditions. But how can an information be kept confidential when it has already reached another human mind? A person’s actions can be unconsciously influenced by what he already knows. The next day you wake up your idea is up on billboards. But, you can’t claim that it’s yours.
I see both sides of this possibility. The continual intrusion on our personal lives can be seen as something that could possibly used against us when it comes to marketing for corporations or whatever purposes a government could use it for. All that meta data has become a hot button issue. I think that comes from the fact the we wonder what nefarious thing the person receiving that information is going to do with it.
On the other hand it gives us an unprecedented look into the amount we do play chess with even those we consider friends. All the times that someone went to say something that could have gone one way or the other, but then got pulled back for fear of that exact change. Imagine all the sincere emails that google might have saved. Those times were an “I love you” to a friend when someone wanted more could have changed that relationship. The times were someone went to bare their soul to a loved one, but then decided that they couldn’t do it. That interests me a lot, the amount of times we suddenly decided it was to risky to remove the armor we wrap ourselves in.
I didn’t know drafts were collected by servers, and I’m actually bothered by it. Privacy online is being annihilated, and it’s only going to get worse. I’m definitely going to use offline clients only, from now on.
However, the article raises a really interesting point: using auto-saved drafts as a way to learn more about someone’s personality sounds like a great idea, especially considering Freud started to theorize psychoanalysis from something as simple as a lapsus.
Also, I love the comparison to chess (as they say, if you want to truly want someone, play chess with them).
It seems a little out of line for our private thoughts to be kept and analyzed. But it’s all in there in the privacy agreement no one reads but checks the little box next to it anyway. This is a really interesting point though. In the case of facebook it’s like when you’re in messenger and the little “_____ is typing” pops out. And then that message goes away because the person you’re talking completely deleted what they were writing. We all do it. It’s like we sit there and consider what our words are about to do and then second guess it. It’s all about perception. How other’s will perceive us because of our words, and what we perceive to be the best choice of words. Really interesting to think about.
It would be amazing if we could have access to the information that companies like Google collect on us. You say it would be helpful for massive-scale, vitally important issues like combatting terrorism and solving mental health issues. But imagine what we could learn about ourselves, our own creative process by having the data on how we edit our own work and self-censor. Which words do we delete from our work most often? What do we often type out intially but then do not say? It seems only fair that they share this with us if they are collecting it in the first place.
Eloquent, perceptive, and beautifully written. Well done.
To say that writing an email is far slower than talking strikes a chord with me. I used to be solitary, reserved and lonely. I said little for fear of judgment, and analysed every sentence I wrote before I let others see it. My emails did go through many iterations of edits – and yes, that is an immense amount of data.
It’s evidence of the internal conflict within ourselves. Why can’t we just be free and uninhibited, where we do everything right the first time, where we do everything with ease and comfort?
My first thought of an example is just the simple scenario of someone who loves someone else in secret, typing and re-typing an email over and over again, struggling within themselves to decide whether or not to expose their feelings to the other person. Given that example, and whatever others you may think of (deciding whether or not to quite a job is another I thought of), automatically saved drafts could be verryyy revealing. I hope that my personal files would never be shared. I think that some secret thoughts should be allowed to stay secrets.
I completely agree. In my past there were definitely moments where I had to catch myself or even sensor what I originally wanted to say. I think the content should definitely remain hidden, but the thought process could be very helpful in understanding ourselves!
I’m trying to avoid Facebook. I’d rather meet my friends personally than talk on FB. It’s true they collect a horribly big amount of information and you will never know where it ends up to. I barely upload any photos there and keep my secrets offline. It’s good to be careful nowadays!
I definitely agree to these points. Anything you release to the internet goes flying to whomever, wherever and whenever completely without your knowledge. This is fine if you have no idea that it’s happening, but when you start to wake up to it, it becomes a bit uncomfortable and you wonder just how much of your private life is readily available on the ‘net.
It makes me quite paranoid at times that they can actually read everything what I write online, even a simple email draft. I know their only(?) purpose is to use that information to profit but it makes me a little crazy to think of a unknown person somewhere reading private information that is intended for my close friends or family. Guess the Internet comes with a price.
Yes, auto saved drafts is really a blessing in disguise. One day I was writing a long email and suddenly my PC showed BSOD,I got so upset thinking I lost my 30 mins worth of time and have to retype but When I opened my Gmail account, my whole message was saved as a draft and I couldn’t have been happier.
But yes our privacy is at stake and we are at the mercies of the tech giants like google, facebook etc
” I’m hopeful that it will be shared and used to help in areas such as anti terrorism and mental health…” That’s quite a statement. I also believe that our friends at google are capable of coming up with systems that can detect common negative words that are mostly used by terrorists and other extremists. This can help in nabbing potential terrorists before they commit their ungodly acts.
Personally, I feel that if we choose to delete our data then it should be deleted. I don’t think it should be legal for tech giants to have pages of fine print nobody really reads (and they know this) and create loopholes to where they can use our info. It’s wrong on so many levels for them to do social experiments on society as a whole. They honestly do not know the mental state of those they are experimenting on. They could cause damage and have nobody to answer to because they just do whatever they want.
In the end, this will become an issue in the future I feel.
This is very interesting. I did not previously realize that this data was saved. I think that it would be very useful to study this data. From a psychological aspect there would be much to gain from studying this information. It makes me wonder what this information would reveal about the way that I process my communication with others?
I imagine all that data on how we post can reveal a lot of information about our psychology. Just as you were saying most of us have inner conflicts. Understanding these could help improve business’s sales, psychological treatment, and suspect interrogation among a bunch of other things.
Knowing what motivates people and what factors will play a role in determining their consistent behavior will helpful for businesses to sell products that will be succesful, psychologists to modify a person’s behavior, and police to get inside of a suspect’s head.
Suspect interrogation would also be helpful for anti terrorism as well.
Hopefully all my brilliant ideas won’t be stolen by Google as I use Gmail for emails! All joking aside surely this is a data protection issue aswell? Government emails aren’t allowed to be tracked so surely it should be the same for your average citizen aswell?
Lovely piece and very thought provoking. Yes many of these services come at no financial cost. But I feel like I am paying by giving these companies access to my inner most workings. My thoughts, my opinions, those candid letters I put on emails that are destined to be deleted. Those moments are so personal. Knowing all that is being harvested along with a million other pieces of info gives me a cold feeling. I feel a little de-humanized.
But, I guess it’s the way of the world.*shrug*
In light of the recent revelation about Janet Napolitano’s command to monitor the University of California information systems, I’m not in favor of sharing these insights. Nor do I appreciate their collection in the first place. Four insights struck me in the UC story. One, why was the National Homeland Security director land hired to be a university president? Beyond budgets and personnel, the two are hardly parallel positions. The only answer there is politics. Second, faculty are guaranteed the right to have input on matters of campus policy, particularly one as important as this. They were not engaged. Third, medical researchers are charged with confidentiality with respect to their human subjects. Monitoring and storing their emails and documents for analysis violates this completely. Last but not least, why were UC community members told to keep quiet about the boxes installed against their will on their servers and related equipment? That is disturbingly Orwellian and reeks of Russian communism. So no, let’s not share the info. In fact, let’s stop collecting it in the first place.
I like how everyone thinks that big sites like Gmail and Facebook are interested in our private lifes.
They are not, they want to know about our preferences so they can show us the perfect adverts, but do not care about our secret emails or unsended messages on facebook.
They don’t have the time or energy to spy on us for real. No one cares about your facebook posts.
I guess people are bothered about the fact that somewhere, this data *is* being stored, despite the fact that we never really wanted this stuff out in the first place. There’s always the tiny, tiny chance of this being accessed. It’s always safer for the data not to exist in the first place, even if the people holding it really don’t care about most of it.
If Facebook were to provide this to the masses, they might benefit from it, stock-wise. I could see investors enjoying the fact that Facebook could know share with you, who you really are, people spend a lot of time on Facebook, and it definitely says some things about themselves. It would also be interesting to see how Facebook were to organize this immense amount of data.
I honestly had not given a second thought to auto saved drafts – I guess I just assumed they ended up in the ether.
It would be interesting to delve into data like this though. I’ve written a LOT of angry emails that I delete before getting a chance to send (just as a venting exercise mainly). I wonder how common things like that are?
This indeed is a good article, but as one of the comments said above. These sites at a global level aren’t interested in our personal lives. Auto save is an amazing feature and as far as the confidentiality threat is concerned, I guess it’s upto the sites to see how they handle their network security mechanisms.
Well… Facebook knows tons about all of us, the same with Google, they spy us in ways we don’t even imagine and use that information for profit. This is a reality most of us prefer to ignore while enjoying the pleasures that technology offer us…
The days of losing our emails or documents because we forgot to save our work are almost over.
I hope they will be gone once and for all very soon. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people whose PC crashes down from time to time. And… it would be completely okay hadn’t I been a writer. So, good on those people who works their brains off to find the solution to the problem that kills a lot of valuable texts.
I don’t know really… I am still somewhat resistant into putting everything I have in a cloud. Sure, it’s safe there, but anyone can access it. I don’t have any confidential information, but at the same time I do have some reservations about it.
I don’t know how much of my discarded emails or other writings are actually valuable in telling anyone what is going on in my mind or what kind of person I am. Quite often, the final product that I’m willing to send out will completely surprise me when I re-read it later. I often wonder if someone else hacked my keyboard or something. (LOL) I often don’t remember what I’d posted or sent and it looks totally different in a different light. Of course, it was sent by none other than me, but the discrepancy is due to the fact that while typing I talk differently and think differently than I do during actual face-to-face conversation. I doubt if my discarded drafts would reveal too much of my inner workings as they are only stepping stones toward the final draft that doesn’t even resemble the real me at all.
While I can say that I’m really grateful to the draft feature, I can say that this actually scared me a bit. I had no idea Facebook was keeping so much data and that Google also keep those Drafts we save. I’m pretty sure that it’s not like they actually read our mails, but it’s still pretty scary that they can look through them.
I never thought of that, there is lot of information that could be mined from the things that we don’t get to send. I imagined that only the things that we actually actively shared were stored on Facebook and I was pretty much aware of the fact that they use and collect that data but I never thought that they actually have access to the drafts that you create and sometimes never sense. Moreover, it is not only the draft but the collection of changes that pretty much document the whole thought process that you went to craft that email. They can get a lot of meta information with every save: how long it took you to send the email, what words you decided to left out, and so on.
You have made me actually paranoid, I think I am going to write everything on the notepad application first and then copy and paste it into the body of the message, I don’t know, the things that I decided to not share are precisely the ones that I want to keep just for myself.
Very interesting post indeed.
It’s way too much trouble to do emails any other way, though. I must say, this is one job I would love to have. Sort of like reading someone’s diary and getting paid for it!
And WHO comes up with this stuff to wonder about? Please point me in the right direction if you know of any Think Tanks that are hiring people with great imaginations, because I’ve got a TON of ideas!
Auto saved draft messages tell a lot about the user. The hesitation, the fear of being found out or a lack of confidence or a sudden thrust of eloquence that you decide not be known to the world- anything could be the reason. There could be so much of valuable information about yourself in your draft that could make you reinvent yourself.
Yes I am one that appreciates this component because of my absent mindedness, and bear in mind becoming involved with the occasion. I am an author and once in awhile I can escape with my considerations and the time just escapes. This auto-spare component can help me with my neglecting to spare. I recollect various of times I have needed to begin once again in light of the fact that the PC solidified and the main thing left to do was closed the entire thing down… how irritating that was. I think it’s just amazing because you don’t have to be on top of everything anymore, and you can just let the machines handle it for you.
Facebook, Google and other giants of information are as big as they are because of us. They have the capacity to analyze all the data and with that data they can no only improve their service, but also create new services according to existing needs. It’s the never ending pot of gold!
Man, this is so interesting! I haven’t really thought about this before… But it’s completely true, writing an email/text message is quite different than writing something on paper, I think that we ramble a lot while writing something on a technological device, and sometimes we can actually notice how rude or inappropriate we can sound of we don’t correct an email/text… I guess that at the end of the day, that’s what we meant to say and the rest it’s just courtesy.
The issue is that we receive new technology, we use it, we are happy with it and we “forget” that the “Internet” has more and more information about us. Really smart from companies that gather and analyze a lot of info and have the capacity to profit from it.
Well I never knew that there was a scientific term for the Freudian slip – parapraxis….I like it. Now that it has a more common name though, maybe common is the wrong word there, it seems that I fall victim to it a lot more often than I would have previously though, It is probably just me psyching myself out, but it is interesting to think about regardless. I never really thought about it as them just sitting on a goldmine of information. Thanks for sharing.
This is a little off topic perhaps, but this post made me think of an indie game called “Emily is Away”. It takes place in a faux old AIM chat, and you as the player talk to “emily” through that. Perhaps one of the most interesting mechanics was how the character you were playing would sometimes delete the messages typed, changing the course of the conversation, or leaving information out. Of course we do this all the time, but there was something very intense about witnessing that from first person and third person perspective with this game, how it changed the context and dynamic of the two characters. Seeing that battle in the mind as a more literal fight between you the player and you the character.
I find that it can be a useful part of self-analysis to look back through drafts of work in process – for instance I personally tend to have a lot of disjointed thoughts that need rearranging when I write the first draft of a longer piece of writing.
I don’t think that recording this data is in and of itself a bad thing, but of course there should be laws and regulations about how much of our data is shared with others, particularly corporations. I don’t think the laws on data privacy have been anywhere near keeping pace with the digital age, so as a result we’re in danger of moving into a sort of libertarian nightmare, where corporations and their employees can do whatever they want with our private information.
Something my Literature profs used to tell me in University was to keep all your drafts. To be completely frank, while I did keep most of them, I almost never looked back at them at a later time. I’m kind of kicking myself for not holding onto them after all these years, as I now find it a fascinating exercise to go back on older work and drafts that I’ve done in the past, and read about the kind of person I was back then. Sometimes you can surprise yourself with the things you write, and I sometimes think to myself ‘Did I really write that?”.
The Internet is such an inundation of such ‘drafts’. So much information is uploaded onto the Net, into the cloud. It seems like an overwhelming task to even consider the breadth of data that is out there.
Even just thinking about the changes in wording that I make on forums or while texting friends (or even just now!) it could be an incredible glimpse into the working of the human mind. Additional information would be invaluable, as well, such as discovering the links between the different people and how they know each other.Is this a boss? Friend? Sibling? Co-worker? Distant relation? What sort of divides are there? Social? Economic? Ethnic? Gender? Age? The more of this info we could also get, the better.