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Google personalises search by trawling private pages

google search

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 10 Jan 2012 at 16:18

Google has unveiled tools that the company claims will make its search engine more personal, finding web content posted by end users and their friends.

According to Google, the Your World tool is intended to present personalised results to signed-in users, with content such as social network updates, images and exchanges between friends included among generic search results.

“You should also be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they’ve shared with you, as well as the people you don’t know but might want to... all from one search box,” said Google fellow Amit Singhal in a blog post.

“Search is still limited to a universe of web pages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met.”

Personal results are clearly marked as Public, Limited or Only you

The tool will pool resources from across its portfolio of services, including Google+ and Picasa, when users are signed into their accounts and will be switched on over the coming days.

Google said the new tool would provide personal results including “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”.

But the company also said anyone searching would be able to find profiles for friends and “people you’re close to or might be interested in following” and Google+ pages related to specific topics.

The company said the tool would be useful for performing tasks such as researching a holiday destination, where friends' posts and pictures might help form an opinion.

Privacy concerns

However, aware that it could face a backlash from privacy campaigners over making personal information searchable, Google said it had included tools and controls intended to give users control of how their data is searched by others.

“With today’s changes, we provide interface elements and control settings like those you’ll find in Google+,” Singhal said

“For example, personal results are clearly marked as Public, Limited or Only you. Additionally, people in your results are clearly marked with the Google+ circle they are in, or as suggested connections.

“We’re also introducing a prominent new toggle on the upper right of the results page where you can see what your search results look like without personal content. With a single click, you can see an unpersonalised view of search results.”

The company told PC Pro that results would not include end user data if the information was not originally intended to be shared.

"Who sees your content in Search plus Your World depends on how you’ve shared it," the company said. "If you’ve shared your Google+ posts or Picasa photos publicly, they may be visible to people if it’s relevant to their searches, while stuff you’ve shared only with a specific circle will only be surfaced to users in that circle."

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User comments

I got caught out when I +1ed a page that I thought was invisible to search engines. Fortunately it was on my own site and I was able to use web-master tools.

I'm glad they seem to have implemented privacy controls, though it's a bit of a late delivery. The whole idea of slurping links from +1 suggests to me that they have a fundamental conflict of interest and shouldn't be trusted to run a social network. I'm not suprised +1 is currently looking a dud.

By c6ten on 10 Jan 2012

Shrink the interweb?

“Search is still limited to a universe of web pages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met.”

Limited? If I only want page that my friends have put up, why would I search for them - why not just ask my friends what's on them?

IMO, when I'm searching, I what to look across the whole web, looking for stuff I didn't know about - I don't want to be confined to a small part that I already have seen.

By greemble on 10 Jan 2012

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