Google’s “Share Plus Your World” Raises More Privacy Issues

Google has been known as “The Search Giant” for years now, and people who were annoyed by commonly asked questions came up with a snappy retort to these unending queries: “Google it.”

Last year, Google+ launched. It was Google’s latest attempt at social networking.  With that, Google decided that people aren’t only searching about content on the net, people are now interested in finding others and knowing about them, so they came up with Social Search to connect more people.  And just a few day ago, they added three new features to the service:

  1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;
  2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,
  3. People and Pages which helps you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

The service, along with the added new features, make up Searh Plus Your World, which blends photos, comments and news posted on Google+ into search results – cool huh?
Not really, especially if you’re Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center who thinks that this is another way of Google manipulating search results which they think the FTC should really look into.

“We believe this is something that the FTC needs to look at,” Rotenberg said.  “Google is an entrenched player trying to fight off its challenger Facebook by using its market dominance in a separate sector.  I think that should trouble people.”

This raises privacy issues as well since anyone who has a Google+ account can be Googled by anybody.

“Although data from a user’s Google+ contacts is not displayed publicly, Google’s changes make the personal data of users more accessible,” EPIC said in a note on his website.

Google Fellow Amit Singhal answers this concern by stating that Google has taken significant steps to make its new feature private and secure. He also said that Google was open to including information from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

“However,” Singhal said that “it has to be done in a way that the user experience doesn’t deteriorate over time and that users are in control over what they see from whom and not some third party.”

It’s easy for people to get riled up over just about anything Google does to change its search process, and layering in personalized content is something Google’s going to have to defend tooth and nail.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google wants to incorporate its social network with search–everything Google does has an ulterior motive of looping back to its search technology, and when it comes to leveraging the wider social graph, aiding its primary search function is the primary reason for launching such an integrated Google+ network in the first place.

As with most things Google does, they’ll have to carefully consider how, when and where Google+ is integrated with their main search tool, and ensure that all privacy measures are taken to pacify the public.