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Your Data: Whenever, Wherever, Whatever.

posted Jun 30, 2013, 6:50 PM by Info@ HelpAsNeeded
No, this isn't a story about what the NSA does with your data.

This is a story about how, with the explosion of mobile devices, cloud services, and social networking apps, you can access most of your information wherever, whenever, and on whatever device you choose.

One way to achieve wherever, whenever, whatever access to your contact information is to use Gmail or Google contacts as your data repository. Microsoft, Apple, Google, and others have all made it easier to share data. Google has added new fields such as birthdays to match fields that exist in other contact applications. Google and Apple have both adopted the CardDAV protocol, so that Google contact information can be automatically and continuously synchronized with Apple devices (iOS version 5.0 and above).

One problem that we hope Google will resolve involves the apparent interaction between Google contacts and Google Apps such as Google+ and Picasa. The problem is that Google changes data in some Google contact record fields based the content of email fields in such contact records. These changes are made without explicit permission or control from the Google contact user.

Here's an illustration. I create a contact record in my Gmail account for Bob's Little Company with an email address I leave the name field(s) blank, put "Bob's Little Company" in the company field, and expect this record to show up in an alpha list in the "Bs." Bob, however, has created his own contact record in his own Gmail account with "Bob's Little Company" in the name field(s) rather than in the company field. Google thinks "Company" is the last name of someone named "Bob's Little Company," and automatically inserts "Bob's Little Company" in the name field(s) in my contact record.

Now, when my address applications--Google, Outlook, and iOS--sort records alphabetically, this record shows up in the "Cs" for Company rather than in the "Bs" for Bob's.

Other users have experienced similar issues with the automated replacement of name field data. One user created contact records with Hebrew names, only to discover that Google had replaced each of these names with English names.

A short-term (but undesirable) solution to this problem is to simply move the email address into the notes field where it will be available.

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