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Privacy Concerns with Google’s New Search Feature

Last week, Google introduced new features to their search engine called “Search Plus Your World”. The new features allow users to focus on results from their own social network and highlights content published on Google+, Google’s social networking service.

The addition to Google was likely prompted by the threat that sites like Twitter and Facebook pose to the search giant since they don’t allow Google to log the photos, links or information shared on the sites. Twitter had previously given Google access to tweets, but the contract expired last summer. Facebook has been working with Bing since 2007 and has resisted Google’s attempts to peer into the social network. Without the information shared on these two popular networks, Google could become a less useful search engine, which is likely why these changes took place.

There has been much controversy over Google’s new features. Many people think Share Plus Your World will skew search results by not providing the most relevant information. Twitter commented on the revamp saying that the new feature would affect people’s ability to get the most relevant, breaking news (which is often from Twitter). Several other online reporters have stated they will no longer use the search engine and there has even been a request to the FTC to look into the new features for possible antitrust violations.

Perhaps the biggest concern with Share Plus Your World is privacy. Since Google will now be promoting Plus profiles as top search results, personal information for people and pages related to a search topic could be revealed. While you will only see Share Plus Your World results if you have it turned on, many people don’t always realize how many people can see their posts via social networking and older or forgotten posts could come back to haunt them.

Along with personal privacy concerns, people in charge of sensitive data could potentially face additional problems. The more integrated social networks and searching become, the easier it is for hacking attempts to gather specific information about an individual. While Google won’t be making any of this sensitive information public, it will make it a lot easier for hackers to find.

While Share Plus Your World will open up a whole new avenue in Google searches, there is definitely a concern with the information revealed and who might have access to that information. Now more than ever, it’s important to be mindful of what you share online and keep sensitive data protected.

What do you think about Google’s new features? Do you like the personal results or are you concerned with your privacy? Let us know in the comments.


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