January 11th, 2012
09:16 PM GMT
London (CNN) – I am a simple man at heart, one who is usually three steps behind the latest technologies and battles hard to try to keep up. So I didn’t really understand the full thrust of Google’s latest news when I first heard it.
Google has changed its algorithm to add social media results to our searches. Users of Google+ will now find information from their friends, pictures from Picasa and all sorts of things that I have no idea about but which are lurking mysteriously on the web.
Google says this makes searches more personal, and gives information which is relevant to you. Surely, if social media is the future, this is all reasonable? So why is everyone up in arms about it?
Twitter, for one, is grumpy. They are complaining because the new search algorithm pulls from Google+ and could therefore make tweets harder to find. Google counters by saying - in my words - “make your stuff available to us, join in and stop whining.”
Even worse, the critics say, is the potential to open a Pandora’s box of privacy issues, because the new search could reveal private information available online. But then again, how much is really private on social media?
Which brings us back to an old argument: How much information should be provided to organisations like Google and Facebook without our specific consent? Further, should we opt in rather than opt out of such services?
Google has already faced the wrath of users and regulators on privacy issues, and is subject to 20 years of privacy monitoring by the Federal Trade Commission after the debacle with Buzz. Facebook, too, has faced backlashes when it has changed privacy settings.
For most of us, this won’t be a huge issue. We use the service, and we welcome the chance to get more information. This means it will be easier to find Auntie Bessie’s pictures from the party, and what our best friends are up to. Google is right. That is what we want.
But recent history shows these sites and services go too far, while claiming they are trying to be helpful. Whenever I hear Google or Facebook are making a change “for the better” I know it will most likely end badly.
Will you opt in or opt out of the Google+ search? I, for one, am already searching for the “thank you, but not today,” button.
I don’t buy from the doorstep and I won’t put up with these sites trawling everywhere for anything. As I say, I am a simple man, and this whole Google business is too complicated. And as wiser minds have said, “if it looks too complicated – it probably shouldn’t happen.”