Google's chatbot Bard wants access to your emails – creepy or handy?

Google wants you to connect its AI chatbot to your personal emails, photos and files. It sounds scary, but Google does a good job of selling how useful it might be. — Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa

WASHINGTON: Out of many tabs become one: That appears to be the promise of Google's latest venture. The tech giant wants to unleash its AI on your emails, holiday plans and other personal documents.

In doing so, Google wants access to merge your mess of tabs into one AI chat interface with Bard, its rapidly expanding rival to ChatGPT.

Bard can now make sense of your holiday plans, forms sent to you by email and other files saved in Google services like Gmail and Google's cloud servers, Google manager Jack Krawczyk has announced.

Krawczyk says this could turn 20 minutes of work into 20 seconds of work by helping you fill out various forms sent to you by email and looking up and summarising key information, something particularly handy for parents at the start of the school year.

"Find my resume titled June 2023 from my Drive and summarise it to a short paragraph personal statement," is another example Google gives of a possible query to Bard.

The tool is possibly even more handy for holiday planning: "You can now ask Bard to grab the dates that work for everyone from Gmail, look up real-time flight and hotel information, see Google Maps directions to the airport, and even watch YouTube videos of things to do there."

Bard is potentially far more useful when Google has access to all your personal data, and yet it doesn't seem as useful if you consider that some information you want it to process might be in WhatsApp, iMessage or another email account.

Announced on September 19, the new Bard functionality is available worldwide, but only in English at first. Other languages are to be supported as soon as possible.

Handing private emails over to an AI is a terrifying thought to some, which is why Google stressed that linking Bard up with your personal content can be revoked at any time.

Krawczyk also said this content would not be used to train and further improve the language model, and that your personal content will never be seen by human reviewers, even when your Gmail, Docs and Drive files are processed by Bard. They also won't be used by Bard to show you ads in any way.

Expanding on this, Google also wants to lets you combine voice input with uploaded images in future. For example, you could upload a photo of the label of a wine bottle and have Bard explain in detail which main course goes best with it. You're also able to share a Bard chat history with other people.

Google had initially been slow to respond to the push by Californian start-up OpenAI, which had gained over 100 million users in a few weeks since November last year with its chatbot ChatGPT.

But Google's latest offer to unleash its AI on its collection of services, from Gmail to Docs, is perhaps also its biggest advantage over ChatGPT.

Launched in mid-March in English in the US and UK, Bard is Google's answer to ChatGPT, which in turn is closely linked to the software corporation Microsoft through billions in investments. Bard has since been made available in 40 languages around the world. – dpa

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