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Google Wants Access to Your Private Social Networks



Google’s Marissa Mayer talked with the Telegraph recently about her vision for Google’s future—and not surprisingly, she has an expansive vision for what information Google should index and provide to us. An “omnivorous” Google, she calls it.

Somehow, I don’t think it’s entirely accidental that she sees a Google that eats everything (rather than, say, knows everything [omniscient], considering the interpretation is apparently “one which is able to take a user’s total context – where they are, what they were just reading, which direction their mobile phone is pointed and so on”). One of the most important sources she wants to tap for better search results is social networks—and while they have already made deals with Twitter for up-to-the-minute results, she wants something a whole lot more “personalized.”

Mayer thinks the key will be when Google can include people’s friends’ personal updates from social networks such as Facebook in search and serve these results personally to the correct people. Right now Google can only include the updates and information from these networks if the users’ privacy settings are ‘public’. According to Mayer – the ideal will be to get access to your friend’s updates in search: “Understanding the social network structure and the permission rules around social networks status updates when they are not public – will really empower us in terms of search.”

That means digging behind (under?) the walls of privacy that social networks like Facebook have set up to mine your friends’ data (including status updates and events, most likely) and serve those up for what they think are your relevant searches.

I don’t know about you, but when I google [a doll's house], I’m not looking for my friend’s status updates on the gift he’s building for his daughters. If Google wants to help us find and organize information, status updates probably aren’t a good way to do it. (The Ibsen play. I’m looking for the Ibsen play.)

Interestingly, Facebook is pushing a new privacy system these days—and the default settings are set to “Everyone” for several options (easy to change, of course, but the push is still there).

All right, all right, I know I’m apparently the only person on Earth who doesn’t want to see every single friends’ crazy dream status updates when googling [dream interpretation], but will you be giving Google access to your social networks?

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    I’m with you! If I honestly thought my friends had the best answers, I’d probably just ask them directly.

    • http://www.marketingloudly.com Mike Gracen

      Google’s decision makers are so out of touch with what the rank-and-file Internet searcher wants and needs, it’s quickly becoming laughable. If they haven’t jumped the shark already, they are in final approach for the ramp.

      “Mayer thinks the key will be when Google can include people’s friends’ personal updates from social networks such as Facebook in search and serve these results personally to the correct people.”

      Seriously? That’s the future of search? Being able to Google what my friend’s have posted on Facebook or Twitter..??
      .-= Mike Gracen´s last blog ..How to Choose the Correct Google Local Categories for Your Small Business Listing =-.

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    Google’s hunger for data beyond websites is a little scary. Some info is meant to be private. Every personal conversation I have with someone is not me and the person I am chatting with, public. Every time I say something to my wife in person or on facebook I dont want public.

    Google needs to radically re-think privacy and this might be the big thing that finally hits google hard 2-3 years from now.
    .-= Jaan Kanellis´s last blog ..Google Living Stories? =-.

  • http://www.terryhoward.net Terry Howard

    Come on guys. I expect this kind of fear mongering from my “non-industry” friends who posted “Facebook is exposing your secrets” updates all yesterday, but you guys should have thought this through more.

    If you paid attention to the near day long event Google had on the subject you would have picked up on the main concept. This is not for any and everything on the main SERPs, but trending topics of high interest and newsworthiness. This takes it’s queues from things like the Mumbai attacks and the recent Iranian election protests, where news sites, aggregators, bloggers, all of it was completely archaic compared to the speed and depth of current coming out of Facebook and Twitter. Social media updates provide an as it happens (albeit completely raw) feed from person-on-the-street perspectives. It’s a no-brainer.

    Why, I used it this past Sunday. It was 5 minutes to kickoff and I didn’t know if Steven Jackson was going to play or not as the injury reports for the Rams were not published, no blogs had any insight and standard news sources were useless. I hit the updates filter and right there I see Steven Jackson himself tweeting “Shake and Bake” and I set my Fantasy Football lineup accordingly. It’s fantastic stuff for a variety of situations, and it’s already been clearly stated that the forced scroller in the main SERPs is only going to be on top trending newsworthy topics.
    .-= Terry Howard´s last blog ..University for Creative Minds =-.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    Hey, after a day of dealing with condescension and accusations that I’m not doing enough and am obviously part of the establishment regurgitating MSM stories from those same fear mongerers, nothing could have made me happier than to be classed with them and still be treated with that same level of high esteem.

    If we want Twitter results, we can go to Twitter. That’s public, that’s fine—and we’ve been reporting on that integration since it was announced months ago. But that is not what Marissa Mayer said in this interview (and my bad on omitting the link to the original article earlier; I’ve added that now), when she moved on from Twitter to talk about how to get access to “social networks status updates when they are not public.”

    AFAIK, that’s not the social search or the Twitter integration they have in testing now, so I think we’re talking about two different things. She talks about serving my friends’ (not public) status updates to me in search results; I don’t know about you, but I’m not friends with any NFL players, so I don’t see that being helpful for my FF (or breaking news).

    If you’ll notice, I’ve consistently said (including in this article) I’m not interested in social search not because I find it invasive but because I find it irrelevant. As Andy noted, if we wanted our friends’ opinions and answers, we’d ask them.
    .-= Jordan McCollum´s last blog ..Online Recommendations > Advertising =-.

  • http://www.wandtattoo-guru.de Martin

    Just one thing to add: If Google knows more from yourself, maybe it will be possible to adjust what will be in google index, too.. Currently you have no control with you personal data, but if you can say: “this is my offical facebook profile” you can authorize pictures, information…

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  • http://www.terryhoward.net Terry Howard

    You’re making the incorrect assumption (and honestly pretty much the bulk of people on this topic) that Facebook users use the social network the same. Tons of people use it as a PR, marketing or customer service tool for their business or personal brand. Frank Reed in a more recent post here makes mention of how many people are left that have still not changed their privacy settings, again making a very incorrect assumption that 100% of Facebook users WANT to change their privacy settings.

    All that aside, I find the tone of discussion about this whole thing a little exaggerated. Facebook is not your driver’s license or some other kind of mandatory public service. It’s an optional web service people voluntarily elect to use, you (should) read and agree to terms of use, all which state that the policies can change and you are free to leave any time you disagree with them. I imagine 99.9% of anybody who runs their own site and are commenting on this issue have the exact same wording in their own privacy policies.

    People are filing class actions and now talk of the FTC getting involved, over a relatively minor change in a private company’s business model… really? Do we want that? More government bodies and district judges who haven’t the first clue on the basic concepts of the web making far reaching laws and decisions that can seriously impact a broad swath of companies and mom and pop websites?

    Say I’m being condescending if you like, I personally think I’m just stepping back and trying to look at this with some calm perspective.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    Terry, I agree with you on so much (and that’s actually why I was treated that way). I agree that we do have to be cognizant of privacy policies (and I highly doubt that the FTC will do much if anything, especially since Frank’s source article said that Facebook had already discussed this with the FTC).

    From Frank’s stat, I got that most Facebook users haven’t even looked at the updated settings, so they wouldn’t know if they wanted them changed or not.

    But this article has nothing to do with Facebook’s new privacy settings (the only reason they get even a passing mention is the timing). Here Google is talking about going around those privacy restraints—Mayer specifically said she wants non-public status updates to include in search results. I have no problem with them indexing status updates, etc., from people who’ve marked their updates as public—but not when people have done all that they have to to keep those updates from being public under Facebook’s guidelines. (We can only hope that a change like that would come as opt-in with plenty of notice, but Facebook doesn’t have a good track record with that one—Beacon as case in point—and Google isn’t a whole lot better.)

    Aside from that, I’ve said repeatedly, I’m stepping back and looking at this from a usability perspective. I still have a serious problem with Google serving any status updates back to me in my searches—the circumstances under which that would be relevant are so narrow (and frankly, using Facebook as self-promotion makes it even less likely that status updates will be relevant to my searches).

  • http://www.terryhoward.net Terry Howard

    Gotcha, I understand your position in a little better, sorry if I misunderstood. I think for me I see the two things (privacy changes and real time indexing of social media updates) as entirely connected. The privacy change puts more content out there on the public front to be used in this new Google (and Bing, etc…) feature. I didn’t really read into Mayer’s comments that they want to get into your privacy protected updates to share with everyone, but rather more like the way Google desktop gives YOU access to YOUR stuff via their search app. Mayer is quoted from the interview:

    “Understanding the social network structure and the permission rules around social networks status updates when they are not public – will really empower us in terms of search.”

    It sounds to me like they eventually want to roll that stuff into your own personalized search (here too, timing of that becoming the standard with an opt out is not coincidental) so that when you use Google you could get global and private stuff in one location. That’s what I took away from these recent events and that interview.
    .-= Terry Howard´s last blog ..University for Creative Minds =-.

    • http://www.terryhoward.net Terry Howard

      I meant to make the point that this result would come about as a connection between your Google Accounts and Facebook Connect, authorizing one to have access to the other, just like you authorize your phone apps to work with Facebook or Twitter, etc…
      .-= Terry Howard´s last blog ..University for Creative Minds =-.

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