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While writing a paper yesterday this strange thing happened to me. I was writing it in Word, and wasn't satisfied with the repeated usage of the word "release" in the last few sentences. So, I've decided to open up Google and started to enter the search phrase "synonyms for release". Haven't even finished the word synonym, google autocompleted my search to "synonyms for release".

How could it know that I wanted to look for that exact word? Was it just a coincidence? Does Google have access to some information that could somehow possibly give away what I intended to search? What could have been the reason for it selecting "release" as its first autocomplete?

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In general, Google autocompletes (and produces search results) based on wide variety of factors, including (but not limited to) your location, your search history, your other Google accounts, your site visit history, your language settings, etc.

For the specific question, I see a few ways in which Google might have access to the relevant information:

  • If you are syncing your documents with Google Drive it will index the document that most recently changed (which would be the document you are writing) and it could analyze it for patterns to produce relevant search results and suggestions
  • If you emailed the document recently anywhere via Gmail it could also index the contents as above
  • Finally, if you are typing the document in Google Docs, it could also have access, but I assume by "Word" you mean Microsoft Word, so this is probably irrelevant in this case

I don't know specifically whether or not Google uses Drive or Gmail contents in the way described, but it would certainly make sense given that it is well known that they do use this information to target advertising.

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