Google releases Gboard

Easier search function for iOS raises privacy concerns

Google just released a new keyboard for iOS devices that may well revolutionize an endless chain of events involved in iPhone web searching by keeping the search function right within the Google keyboard itself. They call it the Gboard and it holds promise.

Whether one is searching for the address of a restaurant, or a “You’re Awesome” GIF, Gboard allows the user to search from within the keyboard without leaving the app itself.

Image from MacWorld report, May 16, 2016

Image from MacWorld report, May 16, 2016

For instance, if you are texting back and forth to someone and a question comes up that requires searching from the browser (i.e., where to go to lunch with a customer). With this Google keyboard you no longer have to switch to the browser app, search, copy the info you were looking for, then go back to the text app to paste the information to send. (See the short video that explains the Gboard.)

One drawback is that Apple does not allow third-party keyboards to access the microphone, which means users can search the web from their keyboard, just not with their voice. A quick switch of the Gboard back to the keyboard fixes this.

Critics also note that Gboard reverts back to the regular keyboard frequently. This is particularly frustrating when going from one text conversation to another, especially since the Google Swype function works remarkably better than the traditional keyboard.

Another serious concern is privacy and data security. A recent MacWorld report, “Google's Gboard doesn't send your keystrokes, but it does leak chicken and noodles” does a good job of outlining the debate. Top of the list: Are we sending too much information to the search giant?

However, TechCrunch reports, “Of course, allowing Google to become deeply integrated with your keyboard raises some questions around data retention and privacy. The app allows you to clear your search history and your personal dictionary, but this presumably only affects the locally installed app. (We’ve asked Google to clarify its data retention policies, and are waiting to hear back.)”

Image from MacWorld report, May 16, 2016.

Image from MacWorld report, May 16, 2016.

Apple Insider reports: “Perhaps predicting the backlash that would come with the release of a system keyboard from the world's largest collector of personal information, Google is quick to point out that it will collect only "anonymous statistics" in order to "diagnose problems when the app crashes and...know which features are used most often."

Apple offers a frank description of the risk of using any third party keyboard when you enable Allow Full Access. However, it is always a good practice not to use a third-party keyboard to type in sensitive information on your device and to be wary of open Wi-Fi networks. (For more information about Wi-Fi security, see "How to protect your data when using public Wi-Fi.")