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Google Puts New Privacy Policy Into Effect, And Stage Is Set For More Personalized Products Even As Google Plus Pickup Is Slow

By   /  March 1, 2012  /  No Comments

ComScore this week issued a report that wasn’t particularly flattering to Google Plus. It noted that users spent just 3.3 minutes on the social network in January compared to 7.5 hours for Facebook. Much discussion revolved around the fact that Google last month touted that the service had grown to 90 million users from 40 million in October.

Google Plus, as The Semantic Web Blog reported here, informs the personalized results that are delivered through Search Plus Your World, such as the Google+ photos and posts users have shared or that have been shared with them through the social network.

One question raised by the ComScore report is what impact the slow takeup might have, if any, on Search Plus Your World. Shortly after Google Plus’ debut, The Semantic Web Blog published a post by Christine Connors, principal at TriviumRLG LLC, discussing why, as she has put it, the service is “one of the subtlest and most user-friendly ontology development systems we’ve ever seen.” Of the ComScore data , she says, “that’s an ‘average’ number. Which means that millions of folks who’ve signed up haven’t used it, and far fewer millions spend hours on it every month. What that says to me is that for some people Search Plus Your World would be almost useless, and for those who use G+ regularly SPYW has a decent and always improving personalized algorithm and index behind it.  Take out the privacy concerns and the people using G+ will have an increasingly positive sense of satisfaction with Google for Search and more.  Problem is, taking out the privacy concerns is very troublesome.”

Speaking of privacy: Today, of course, is the date that Google’s privacy policy changes.

The service is consolidating 70 separate policies under one umbrella and putting all users’ account data in a single place so that they are treated as a single entity across all its products – opening the door to providing more personalization in search but also raising concerns among users about just how well Google should know them and to what potential uses it will put that more-integrated knowledge. That includes concerns that information shared via users’ Gmail messages could be used, for example, to better target advertising messages to them in other Google services.

Google, which is the target of a Federal Trade Commission antitust probe whose net reportedly widened thanks to the social network, also has reported to the FTC and to the press that the revisions to its privacy policy don’t allow any new or additional third-party sharing of data. It also told members of Congress in a letter that its “approach to privacy has not changed.” Earlier this week, Microsoft and other companies reportedly complained to EU regulators about the antitrust implications of Google Plus, as well.

Perhaps they hadn’t had time to digest the ComScore report, or didn’t find much solace in it as Google continues to enhance the service. On Monday it posted on g+, the Google Plus developers site, that over a million websites now use Google Plus plugins, such as the +1 button and the badge for Pages, and that it has added improvements to them to make sharing from the +1 button and following brands and businesses easier. At SXSW next week, Google’s Vic Gundotra, senior vp of engineering, will discuss with Guy Kawasaki the future of the Google Plus service.  

This week Google’s Susan Wojcicki, senior vp of advertising, also spoke at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, where the search engine giant’s issues around privacy were raised, according to this article. The story quotes her comments that Google Plus isn’t just about building a social network, but that “it’s the idea of what is our experience when it revolves around people based on who you know, based on who you have in your Circles, how we [as users] think about the information that we [Google] give to you.”

And it describes her thinking that Search Plus Your World ought to play a significant role in the development of new, more personalized Google products. It quotes her as saying, “That’s how real world information works, right? It works based on information that I have gotten from my friends. It matters who has recommended a specific book to me. It matters who has actually cited specific articles. The more we can make it personalized, the more we think something like the search experience will be more useful to you.”

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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